Academia: For Democrats Only

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

In what might be a record, 22 Obama Administration officials have already left the government for academia.

Two cabinet officials are in this mix. Interestingly, both held the same position—chair of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA).

Another interesting note is that of the aforementioned group, seven, or about one-third of the total—decamped for Harvard. Yet and still, there is at least one indication that the exodus continues unabated.

“The Graduate School of Political Management has whittled the pool of candidates for its next executive director down to four political and press mavens, nearly one year after initiating the search,” Andrea Vittorio reported in the GW Hatchet on November 17, 2011. “In the second attempt to name a new leader for the school of practical politics, former U.S. Rep Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., four-time press secretary Maxine Isaacs, former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, R-N.Y. and an undisclosed sub-cabinet official in the Obama administration are being considered for the high-profile administrative role.” The GW Hatchet is the student newspaper at George Washington University.

The mystery VIP would join an illustrious line-up. What follows is a list of former Obama Administration officials. Their names are followed by their one-time government job titles and their current places of employment in academia.

All but three—Melissa Hathaway, Susan Sher and Annie Tomasini—are now either professors or scholars-in-residence at institutions of higher learning:

Obama Alums in Academia

  1. David Barron—Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel; Honorable S. William Green Professor of Public Law Harvard
  2. Susan Crawford—President Barack Obama’s Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy; Cardozo Law School
  3. Philip J. Crowley—State Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs; Omar Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership, Penn State/War College
  4.  Ezekiel J. Emanuel—White House adviser; an oncologist and vice provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
  5. Austan Goolsbee—chair, CEA; Professor of Economics University of Chicago*
  6. Melissa Hathawayacting senior director for cyberspace at the National Security Council; Senior Advisor, Explorations in Cyber International Relations, Harvard
  7. Lisa Heinzerling—Assistant Administrator/Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation;  Professor of Law at Georgetown University.
  8. Van JonesSpecial Adviser on Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the Council on Environmental Quality; distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
  9. Juliette N. Kayyem—Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Programs, Homeland Security Department; Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School/Harvard
  10. Vivek Kundra—Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States; Harvard
  11. Martin Lederman—Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel; Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown
  12. Michel Leiter—Head of the National Counterterrorism Center; Center on Law and Security Scholar in Residence, New York University
  13. Andrew McLaughlin—Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Internet Policy, White House Executive Director, Civic Commons; Lecturer in Law, Stanford Law School.  Fellow, Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
  14. Daniel Meltzer—Principal Deputy White House Counsel (since January 2009-June 2010); Story Professor of Law, Harvard Law
  15. Vali Nasr— Former senior adviser to Afpak Special Envoy, State Department; Professor of International Politics, Tufts University
  16. Christina Romer—Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; economics professor, Berkeley *
  17. Susan Sher—Chief of Staff, Michelle Obama; Executive Vice president for Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs, University of Chicago Medical Center
  18. Anne-Marie Slaughter—Director/Policy Planning-State; Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton
  19. Sean Smith—Assistant Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Homeland Security Department; teaches media, politics and global affairs at Yale University and is the Director of the Capstone Projects at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs
  20. Lawrence H. Summers—National Economic Council; Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard
  21. Annie Tomasini—Deputy Press Secretary/Vice President Biden; Harvard (director of governmental relations)
  22. Donald Winter—former Secretary of the Navy; University of Michigan Professor of Engineering Science



Sources: The Washington Post, The Huffington Post,, federal agency websites, college and university web sites.

  • Cabinet members

Many are returning to their old haunts. Still and all, for Republican appointees that is rarely an option. “Although I went into the administration as a Democrat and came out as an independent, I didn’t realize how much I had shocked my colleagues by working in a Republican administration,” NYU professor Diane Ravitch remembered of the time she had spent as an appointee of George H. W. Bush.

Indeed, for Republican scholars, leaving academia for a government appointment when their party is in office is rather like tots leaving Toyland: Once they pass its borders, they can never return again.

In several studies undertaken by Accuracy in Academia, we found that about half of President Clinton’s cabinet and one-third of President Carter’s left government service for university chairs, compared to a trio each from President Reagan’s two terms in office and his hapless successor’s single term in the White House, even when the Ivory Tower was their point of origin.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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