Policy Whisperers

Trusted staff advising policymakers shaping the new Washington

Ellen Lord


Ellen Lord
Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment

The Pentagon spends hundreds of billions of dollars contracting to thousands of defense companies every year. Ellen Lord is charged with streamlining and protecting that sprawling supply chain.

“She’s moving the needle, which is hard to do in the bureaucracy that is the federal government,” Carlisle said. “She works closely with Congress to get the legislative changes that we need … and then Ellen will take them into the DoD, and she’ll get the regulatory reform going.”…

Eric Hargan


Eric Hargan
Deputy Secretary, Health and Human Services Department

For Eric Hargan, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that serving as Health and Human Services deputy secretary feels a little like fate.

“It was kind of almost destined I was going to end up in politics and health care,” Hargan said, explaining that his father served as a county commissioner in Pulaski County, Illinois, and his mother worked at the local hospital as an X-ray tech for 58 years…

Jennifer DeCasper


Jennifer DeCasper
Chief of Staff, Sen. Tim Scott

DeCasper didn’t ask for the spotlight. The longtime aide to Sen. Tim Scott had finally accepted the South Carolina Republican’s offer to be his chief of staff, four years after she went to work in his new House office. 

But then came the “shitstorm,” in her words, when Washington realized she was the only African-American chief of staff in the Senate.  “I began, really, becoming the echo chamber for the necessity and the value of diversity. … That was hard,” said DeCasper, a former Colorado prosecutor and Dulles ramp agent. “Now I’m just like a bullhorn for it. I love it.”…

Justin Muzinich


Justin Muzinich
Deputy Treasury Secretary

Serving as counselor to Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Muzinich helped juggle pressure from corporate America, Congress, and outside groups who clamored to get their policy positions into the tax law.

“In every meeting, he played a key role in policy and helped guide us toward a successful conclusion, and his personal skills in working with all those in the rooms were hugely helpful,” Rep. Kevin Brady said…

Kerry Rom


Kerry Rom
Communications Director for Rep. Dan Crenshaw

Kerry Rom is driving the communications strategy for a House Republican freshman who has garnered the kind of media attention most members of Congress can only dream of.

“As one of the youngest members of the House and a newcomer to the political arena, Representative Crenshaw has a natural sense of how to articulate his policies and effectively utilize social media,” Rom said. “Our communications shop is lucky that we don’t have to force this to be a priority. … Ultimately, Representative Crenshaw is an incredible communicator, so it’s my job to take that to the next level.”…

Lina Khan


Lina Khan
Majority Counsel, House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee

Within a few months of the publication of Lina Khan’s doctrine-shattering study on the antitrust threat posed by Amazon, some lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill were deriding the young academic’s new framework as “hipster antitrust.”

But Khan didn’t shy away from Congress—instead, she went to work for it…

Marc Short


Marc Short

Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence

In a town of big egos and self-promotion, Marc Short stands out by trying to stand back. As chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence and in his earlier job as President Trump’s legislative director, Short does plenty of television interviews and fights for administration positions. But he is not a shouter; he dissents from some of the president’s most provocative statements (he denied, for instance, that the news media are “enemies of the people”); and he tries to wield his influence in quieter ways…

Robert Perez

Robert Perez
Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

“We are beyond the breaking point,” Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez told CNN’s Brianna Keilar in March. “We have reached an unprecedented level with respect to this crisis situation, the amount of undocumented migrants that are driving along our southern border. … Our facilities, our legal framework, our resourcing … was never designed and built for this.”…