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Ken Mehlman

In office
2005–2007
Preceded by Ed Gillespie
Succeeded by Mike Duncan

Born August, 21 1966
Political party Republican

Kenneth Brian Mehlman (born August 21, 1966, Baltimore, Maryland) is an American attorney and political figure. Currently a Member, Managing Director and head of Global Public Affairs for Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, he previously served as a partner at the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.[1]

Mehlman has been a longtime figure in the Republican Party. He was a campaign manager for the 2004 re-election campaign of George W. Bush before serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007. In June 2007, Bush appointed Mehlman to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Mehlman is Jewish and lives in Washington, D.C.

Contents

Early life and education

Mehlman is the son of Judith A. Mehlman and Arthur S. Mehlman, a director of MuniMae and formerly a partner at KPMG, for which he was the head of the firm's auditing department in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.[2] Mehlman's brother Bruce Mehlman works as a lobbyist at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. [3][4]

Mehlman received his undergraduate degree in 1988 from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he was a member ofPhi Kappa Tau (Xi chapter). He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991, where he was a classmate of future President Barack Obama.

Career

Mehlman practiced environmental law at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C. (1991–1996) and assisted campaigns in Massachusetts (William Weld's 1990 gubernatorial campaign), Ohio, Virginia, Texas, and Georgia, as well as the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.

Mehlman was chief of staff to Representative Kay Granger of Texas's 12th congressional district and legislative director to Representative Lamar S. Smith of Texas's 21st congressional district.

Mehlman served as field director for the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. When Bush became President, Mehlman became director of the White House Office of Political Affairs. He managed the Bush re-election campaign in 2004. In January 2005, the American Association of Political Consultants gave Mehlman the "Campaign Manager of the Year" award for his management of the Bush/Cheney presidential ticket. [5]

In addition to his role at KKR, Mehlman is a trustee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Franklin & Marshall College, and the National Endowment for Democracy. He also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Senior Advisory Committee of the Harvard University Institute of Politics and the executive leadership cabinet of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation.[6]

Republican Party chair

Mehlman was Bush's choice to replace Ed Gillespie as the chair of the Republican National Committee and was elected to the post on January 19, 2005.

He announced after the November 2006 general election that he would not seek re-election to another term as Republican National Chairman. One of his top deputies, RNC political Director Michael DuHaime, announced in December 2006 that he would become campaign manager for Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

Mehlman addressed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) a full year before Bush addressed the civil rights organization.[7] In his address to the NAACP on July 14, 2005 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mehlman apologized for the Republican Party's failure to reach out to the black community in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating, "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization... I am here as Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."[8][9] In a CNN interview a couple of days after the speech, he reluctantly mentioned the "Southern strategy" by name. [10]

Although Mehlman's speech seemed to suggest a new approach towards the African-American community, most have considered the approach to be unsuccessful, with several polls indicating that Republicans have not improved in terms of African-American approval. A Washington Post poll shows that Bush's approval rating among African Americans fell to two percent at one point,[11] and a report card issued by the NAACP gave "F"s to a majority of Congressional Republicans, although the report card covered a wide variety of issues, with multiple ones not dealing mainly with African Americans.[12]

As head of the RNC, Mehlman played a key role, along with Karl Rove, in executing the Republican Party's long-term yet ultimately doomed plan for electoral dominance. This is discussed at length in Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger's book, One Party Country.[13]

During his tenure as Chairman of the RNC, Mehlman co-founded the United States Senate Joint Advisory Committee, USSJAC, a Republican federal political committee which advises on domestic and foreign policy and protects at-risk Republican Senate seats. Mehlman stepped down as Chairman of the RNC voluntarily at the end of 2006.[14] He was replaced by Mike Duncan and Mel Martinez.

Controversies

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Phone jamming scandal

A Democratic analysis of phone records introduced at the 2005 criminal trial of James Tobin, the Northeast political director for the RNC in 2002, show that he made 115 outgoing calls - mostly to the same number in the White House office of political affairs - between September 17 and November 22, 2002. At the time, the office of political affairs was headed by Mehlman. Two dozen of the calls were made from 9:28 a.m. the day before the election through 2:17 a.m. the night after the voting, a three-day period during which the criminal phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out, and then abruptly shut down.

Virtually all the calls to the White House went to the same phone number. In April 2006, Mehlman issued a statement on the matter, noting that his deputy for the Northeast states routinely discussed election business with RNC officials, and categorically stated that "none of my conversations nor the conversations of my staff, involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident."[15][16]

CNN transcript controversy

Comedian Bill Maher referred to Mehlman as a closeted gay man in a November 8, 2006, appearance on CNN's Larry King Live. It became a controversy when CNN edited out Maher’s comments in later taped editions of the appearance and removed the reference to Mehlman's sexuality from the transcript of the show. Faced with prior rumors of his sexuality, Mehlman denied that he was gay in May 2006. “I’m not gay,” Mehlman told the New York Daily News, “but those stories did a number on my dating life for six months.”[17] Mehlman announced he would step down from his Chairman post the day after Maher's appearance (although reports said that his resignation had been expected for some time).[18]

Preceded by
'
Director, White House Office of Political Affairs
January 2001 – February 2005
Succeeded by
Sara Taylor

References

External links


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