The real Jim
Jim Messina, the former Deputy Chief of Staff and campaign manager for President Obama, would like you to know that he thinks Elizabeth Warren is a hypocrite. In a Monday appearance on MSNBC, Messina blasted Warren for calling for the breakup of Facebook and other large tech companies but still buying campaign ads on the Facebook platform.
"She's out there spending millions of dollars on Facebook, which she wants to break up," Messina said, "that logic doesn't make sense to me… stop playing games."
Messina also criticized Warren and Kamala Harris for refusing to participate in a Fox News townhall. Watch:
Messina's criticism of Warren was enthusiastically amplified by right-wing media outlets.
What Messina did not talk about is his day job as a "strategic consultant" for corporations. Among Messina's clients is Google, a company that Warren has advocated splitting up. He serves on the board of PillPack, a company owned by Amazon, which also has been targeted by Warren. According to Messina's website, he also represents "Uber, Airbnb, and Delta Air Lines."
But most of Messina's corporate clients -- he says he has more than 70 -- are undisclosed. Messina says the mission of his consulting work is to be an "ally" to these corporations and give "businesses an edge."
In his pitch to potential corporate clients, Messina touts himself as the "mastermind behind President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign."
According to one client, Messina has a knack for stimulating public support for corporate agendas. "We have hired Messina to work on grassroots initiatives. Online gaming is one of those. Jim is as politically astute as they come and he will be a great resource for us," Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, said.
Messina never disclosed his corporate work on the MSNBC segment and was introduced only as Obama's former campaign manager.
Messina's work across the pond
It's unclear why people should value Messina's views on the 2020 Democratic primary field. Messina's recent political work has been in support of right-wing candidates. In 2017, Messina worked for Conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May.
During the campaign, May whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment and vowed to slash immigration, sounding very much like Donald Trump. “When immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society,” May said. May claimed that immigration drove down wages, strained public services, and created “close to zero” economic benefit.
May promoted withdrawal from the EU, known as "Brexit," as a way to limit legal immigration from unskilled Europeans. This vision for the UK's immigration system matches a new immigration plan unveiled by Trump last week.
During her tenure as home secretary, the UK government detained and deported "longstanding Caribbean immigrants who had every right to live in the UK."
Messina played a similar role for May's Conservative predecessor, David Cameron, in 2015. In that election, Messina was "credited with playing a critical role for the Conservatives by targeting messages at specific voters who could be persuaded to switch from the Liberal Democrats." Cameron campaigned on a platform that would have virtually eliminated the ability of unions to strike.
Messina's work for Cameron put him at odds with another former Obama advisor, David Axelrod, who worked for the liberal candidate, the Labour Party's Ed Miliband.
The most homophobic ad of modern political history
Messina's willingness to leverage bigotry for political gain did not start in the UK. As the campaign manager for former Senator Max Baucus in 2002, Messina released "one of the more homophobic ads of modern political times." The ad, set to a soundtrack from a pornographic movie, "featured footage from a 20-year-old TV ad for a hair salon run by Baucus’s opponent, Mike Taylor...who was seen massaging a man’s face while wearing an open-front shirt, and hence was obviously supposed to be gay."
"Mike Taylor: Not the way we do business in Montana," the narrator says ominously.
In 2010, President Obama reportedly wanted to announce his support for same-sex marriage. But Messina allegedly warned him that speaking publicly could "cost you a couple of battleground states; North Carolina, for one."
But Messina continues to hold sway over powerful people in the Democratic party. According to the Washington Post, Messina appeared at a gathering of "107 of the Democratic Party's biggest bundlers" in March.
Messina plays favorites
The media regularly asks Messina for his views on the 2020 Democratic primary field. And Messina, under the banner of "Obama's former campaign manager," consistently trashes candidates seeking to reduce corporate power.
"He's an old, angry guy running against Donald Trump, who's an old, angry guy. That's not a contrast," Messina said of Senator Bernie Sanders in the Washington Post.
Messina told ABC News that Sanders, who is calling for single-payer health care and increased corporate taxes, couldn't beat Trump because he couldn't compete with Trump's economic message. "I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy. ... I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues," Messina said. Those comments were highlighted by Fox News.
Messina also criticized Warren's decision not to hold high-dollar fundraisers where wealthy people get access to her in exchange for large donations. "Here's the problem: The new map of having California and Texas so early means money is going to be even more important in the Democratic primary, unfortunately...And Senator Warren just decided to get rid of half of her fund-raising ability," Messina told the Washington Post.
After Warren and other candidates advocated for the elimination of the electoral college, which enabled Trump to win despite losing the popular vote, Messina spoke out against the idea, saying it would mean presidential candidates wouldn't visit small states.
Messina has had kinder words for Beto O'Rourke, who doesn't emphasize critiques of corporate America and is popular with the large tech companies that Messina represents. Messina said O'Rourke had a rare combination of "inspiration, aspiration, and authenticity" and praised him for playing the air drums. "He is authentic, and luckily, authentically cool. For him to play air drums to the Who or skateboard is both authentic and cool. People want to hang out with him."
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