In a 1979 photo by Time’s Diana Walker, Ted Kennedy and Strom Thurmond lock horns at a Senate Judiciary Committee session. A young Kennedy aide slips into the frame, just over his boss’s shoulder. The caption doesn’t identify the aide, but it’s 41-year-old Stephen Breyer, 15 years before his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Among the legions who’ve worked for Kennedy during his 46 years in the Senate, dozens like Breyer are near the top of Washington’s hierarchy of power. This network of former aides, which reaches nearly every field, is Kennedy’s legacy to Washington.
Like Bob Dole and the late Pat Moynihan, Kennedy turned his offices into a proving ground for the best and the brightest. “You didn’t come back to him and say it was impossible,” says Melody Miller, a friend and former aide. “You figured out how to do the impossible.”
When a Kennedy-written bill passed, staff got notes of thanks from the boss or a copy of the roll-call vote card with the inscription “We did this together.”
In addition to his personal and campaign offices, Kennedy has chaired both the Judiciary and Health committees, overseeing more than 100 staffers. Here are some of those noteworthy alumni:
Jeffrey Blattner. Was key adviser to Justice Department crusader Joel Klein in Microsoft antitrust suit.
David Boies. Top trial lawyer—counsel for Al Gore (Bush v. Gore), Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Stephen Breyer. The Supreme Court justice did two stints on Judiciary in the 1970s, taking a leave from the Harvard Law faculty to be chief counsel.
Greg Craig. Top defense attorney (Bill Clinton impeachment, John Hinckley, Elian Gonzalez’s father).
Ken Feinberg. Superlawyer. Handled financial settlements for 9/11 victims.
Jim Flug. Kennedy point man on Supreme Court nomination fights.
Thomas Henderson. Headed the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for 17 years.
Thurgood Marshall Jr. Clinton Cabinet secretary and Gore deputy counsel.
Thomas Susman. Director of government affairs for American Bar Association.
Ron Brown. Chair, Democratic National Committee, 1989–92. Clinton secretary of Commerce. Died 1996.
Mary Beth Cahill. Longtime strategist. Ran John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
Bill Carrick. Top political consultant.
John Culver. Represented Iowa in the House and Senate for 16 years. Founded Arent Fox government-relations practice.
Stephanie Cutter. Chief of staff for Michelle Obama.
Susan Estrich. TV pundit. Ran Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Marc Ginsberg. Middle East adviser to Jimmy Carter, Clinton ambassador to Morocco.
Kathleen Hatfield. Legislative counsel to Senator Robert Byrd.
Robert Hunter. Carter national-security aide, Clinton ambassador to NATO.
Harold Ickes. Hillary and Bill Clinton’s Svengali was a top aide in Kennedy’s 1980 presidential run.
John Kerry. Volunteered on Kennedy’s first Senate campaign in 1962.
Paul Kirk. DNC chair in the 1980s.
Tom Lopach. Finance chief of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
William Lynn. Former Pentagon CFO, now executive/lobbyist for defense giant Raytheon.
Michael Mershon. Press secretary to Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.
Joe Onek. Carter White House deputy counsel, Clinton Justice aide. Now senior counsel to House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
John Ray. DC city-council member, 1979–97.
Andrew Rosenberg. Lost 2004 campaign against Virginia’s Jim Moran.
Mark Schneider. Peace Corps director, 1999–2001.
Ricki Seidman. Headed the Clinton/Gore “war room” in 1992 campaign. Communications director for Joe Biden’s vice presidential campaign.
Elaine Shocas. Chief of staff to Clinton secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Bob Shrum. Kennedy press secretary, 1980 to 1984. Shrum’s speech for his boss at the 1980 Democratic convention helped launch his career as a political strategist.
Nancy Soderberg. Clinton national-security aide.
James Steinberg. Clinton deputy national-security adviser. A candidate for the top NSC job in an Obama White House.
Joe Trippi. Consultant got his start in politics on Kennedy’s ’80 campaign.
Carl Wagner. Veteran Dem strategist.
Burt Wides. Chief of staff for Representative John Conyers of Michigan.
David Burke. Former number-two exec with ABC News and president of CBS News.
Dr. Lawrence Horowitz. Hollywood and Broadway producer. Advises Kennedy on his cancer and family medical issues.
Jeannie Kedas. A top communications exec for MTV.
Steve Scully. The host of C-Span’s Washington Journal interned with Kennedy.
Robert Bates. Ex–Mobil Oil executive.
Stephen Collins. Lobbies for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler.
Ranny Cooper. Head of public-affairs practice at PR giant Weber Shandwick.
Leslie Dach. Does lobbying and PR for Wal-Mart. Worked on Kerry’s 2004 campaign.
Jack Leslie. Chair, Weber Shandwick.
Judith Appelbaum. Former top official with the National Women’s Law Center.
Melody Barnes. Executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress.
Ben Binswanger. Top official with the Case Foundation. Former AOL exec.
Michael Dannenberg. Senior fellow, New American Foundation.
Thomas Dine. Ran American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 1980–93.
James Guest. President and CEO of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
Antonia Hernandez. Head of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for 18 years.
Trina Vargo. Founder and president, US-Ireland Alliance.
Christine Capito Burch. National Association of Public Hospitals head since 1990.
Gary Heimberg. Lobbyist for Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
Dora Hughes. Health-policy adviser to Barack Obama in the Senate.
Darrel Jodrey. Top federal lobbyist for Johnson & Johnson.
Stephen Keith. President of Panacea Pharmaceuticals in Gaithersburg.
This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.