A graying man — once the baby-faced press wrangler for Sen. Barack Obama’s nascent presidential campaign — nursed an absinthe cocktail as he mingled near a former spokesman for President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection bid.
Nearby, one of Sen. John McCain’s most aggressive public advocates in his 2008 presidential campaign huddled with a man who spent the last several years as former President Bill Clinton’s liaison with the public.
The scene could have taken place over oysters at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a mainstay for politicos in the nation’s capital. But it unfolded in an exposed-brick bar in the South of Market district of San Francisco as veterans of President Obama’s administration who launched a marketing and communications firm in the nation’s capital celebrated the opening of their West Coast office. Like many veterans of high-profile campaigns in recent months, they had been drawn west by the opportunities in Silicon Valley.
“It’s good to see old friends and new faces as well. Or, as we like to call you, prospective clients,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama’s presidential campaigns who worked at the White House. Now LaBolt is a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, which has done work for companies such as Airbnb and Google as well as ballot initiatives and political advocacy campaigns.
“We set our sights on the West Coast,” LaBolt told scores of political operatives, many turned tech executives. “There are a lot of people out here creating change and bumping up against institutional actors committed to defending the status quo.”
Veterans of high-profile political campaigns and White House administrations such as LaBolt — who in years past would have turned their public-service resumes and connections into jobs as lobbyists on K Street, advisers at Fortune 500 firms or leaders of nonprofits — are increasingly heading west, attracted by the opportunities to put their political skills to use in the technology industry. It can lead to strange bedfellows: Democrats and Republicans who fought each other while working on opposing campaigns find themselves working on shared goals and trying to effect change outside the nation’s gridlocked capital.
It’s a new gold rush — to social media companies, tech start-ups, incubators and key players in the sharing economy.
Read more at The Los Angeles Times.