News & Politics

Who’s Who in Bernie’s Washington

The self-styled revolutionary has a very DC brain trust.

With a decisive victory in Nevada and rising poll numbers in South Carolina, Bernie Sanders is the undisputed front-runner of the Democratic primary race for President. However, onlookers coming alive to the reality of a Sanders nomination may be surprised them to learn that the campaign’s self-styled revolutionary appeal is engineered largely by a cortege of DC operatives and Washington natives.

Washington’s outsize role in Sanders World is hardly unexpected for a candidate who has served nearly 30 years on Capitol Hill. But the Sanders campaign has gone further. Despite officially “co-locating” its headquarters operations between Vermont and Washington, it has concentrated far greater financial resources into its DC nerve center—a downtown office a few blocks from the White House—and staffing it with a network of veteran Beltway hands.

At the top of the campaign hierarchy is Sanders’s traveling retinue of well-known advisers, all DC residents: campaign manager Faiz Shakir; deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt, who joined the campaign from Sanders’s Washington Senate office; and top political adviser Chuck Rocha, a resident of Southeast DC who recently finished a term on the DC Democratic State Committee. And pride of place goes to Sanders’s “Huma”: Jeff Weaver, the longtime adviser who has been by Sanders’s side for three decades.

It’s inside the DC headquarters, say campaign operatives, that women preside. Deputy campaign manager Arianna Jones, a deputy to Shakir, came from the Sanders-aligned firm Revolution Messaging, while political director Analilia Mejia and organizing director Claire Sandberg are both stalwarts of campaign basecamp.

But it’s outside headquarters where a firmament of Beltway political firms are at work behind some of Sanders’s early and enduring achievements. Aisle 518 Strategies, the firm led by Tim Tagaris and operatives Robin Curran and Andrew Eldredge-Martin in Washington, is the architect of the candidate’s small-dollar fundraising apparatus. (You can thank them for those flash YouTube ads of Sanders panhandling in a winter jacket.) HaystaqDNA, Sanders’s data-analytics and micro-targeting firm, is the outfit of founder Ken Strasma and president Andrew Drechsler. Even the array of more commonplace campaign functions orbit the Washington area, such as Northern Virginia’s Maverick Strategies (a direct-mail firm) and the enigmatically named Research and Media Monitoring (whose principal appears to live in Washington and collected more than $32,000 from the campaign last summer).

Even the campaign’s lawyers are Washington-based, according to FEC records—retaining the Georgetown firm Foster Garvey as well as Peer, Gan & Gisler near Dupont Circle.

A previous version of this article stated that the residence of Tim Tagaris is Chicago. It is Washington. 

Benjamin Wofford
Staff Writer

Benjamin Wofford is a contributing editor at Washingtonian.