DCCC Remains in Disarray Following Diversity Shakeup

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2019 file photo, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., walks to a group photo with the women of the 116th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. A mass departure of top aides is shaking House Democrats’ campaign arm after Hispanic and black members of Congress complained …
Susan Walsh/AP Photo

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is still dealing with the fallout from the mass exodus of staffers last month due to the growing concerns of the committee’s devotion to diversity.

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) is reportedly looking for a new executive director and seeking members’ help in her search in hopes that it shows the frustrated black and Latino members that she takes diversity seriously.

“We are moving quickly to fill this role, but we will do so in a way that honors the values of the most diverse House Democratic Caucus in U.S. history,” Bustos wrote in a letter obtained by Politico. “I look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions.”

The letter comes with a series of questions, asking members which “qualities and experiences” she should look for in the considered individuals.

According to Politico:

In conversations with members across the caucus’ ideological spectrum, Bustos has sought to reassure them that the DCCC is addressing its diversity issues while remaining fixated on her end goal: Keeping the House majority.

In addition, Bustos has enlisted her senior aide, chief of staff Jon Pyatt, to reassure skittish lawmakers following the staff departures at the DCCC. Pyatt reached out to chiefs of staff for vulnerable Democrats in the last week, promising them that protecting freshmen in swing-district seats remains the campaign arm’s first priority.

This follows the DCCC’s mass exodus last month, spurred by growing concerns over the committee’s devotion to diversity.

“There is not one person of color — black or brown, that I’m aware of — at any position of authority or decision making in the DCCC,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) said at the time. “It is shocking, it is shocking, and something needs to be done about it.”

“Until they show me they are serious about diversity, there’s no reason for me to meet with them,” she added.

“We do not support Cheri Bustos as leader of the DCCC,” Justice Democrats spokesman Waleed Shahid said.

“Bustos has not supported progressive policies like Medicare for All, free college, a Green New Deal, or ending private prisons and immigration detention facilities,” Shahid continued.

Tensions boiled over last month, with DCCC Executive Director Allison Jaslow quitting during an emergency meeting.

“When I was in eighth grade, I decided that my life would be dedicated to serving my country. I did that first in uniform but since have tried to be a force of good in our politics,” Jaslow said in a statement.

“And sometimes selfless service means having the courage to take a bow for the sake of the mission — especially when the stakes are so high,” she added.

Jaslow’s departure triggered a domino effect with many senior staffers leaving their positions. One lawmaker called the mass shakeup a “Monday Night Massacre.”

As Politico reported:

And in the next 10 hours, much of the senior staff was out: Jared Smith, the communications director and another Bustos ally; Melissa Miller, a top DCCC communications aide; Molly Ritner, political director; Nick Pancrazio, deputy executive director; and Van Ornelas, the DCCC’s director of diversity.

Jacqui Newman, the chief operating officer for the campaign arm, will serve as interim executive director and facilitate the search for a permanent replacement, Bustos said in a statement late Monday.

Despite Bustos’s efforts, many Democrats do not believe she is taking the proper steps to address the growing concerns, particularly in regards to the hiring process.

A group of a half dozen black and Latino lawmakers held a conference call earlier this week to air concerns about the lack of a coherent hiring strategy at the DCCC, more than two weeks after five top staffers were forced out. Bustos emailed members last week informing them of her next steps and that the executive director position had been posted publicly, a rare move for a top job at a political committee.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), who will serve on Bustos’s advisory council, is taking a more positive approach and said it remains clear that Bustos “heard her colleagues’ concerns about diversity in the DCCC’s senior leadership and is taking immediate action to get on track.”

“It takes guts to admit you’ve messed up, and there is no one who can question that Cheri Bustos is owning where she fell short and working to make the DCCC an organization we can all be proud of,” he continued, according to Politico.

“As a former frontline member who flipped a red-district, I know personally how important the work Chairwoman Bustos and the DCCC are doing,” Ruiz added.

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