- Special Projects
WASHINGTON — Chaos. Disarray. Meltdown.
Those are just some of the words used by Politico in a new report that reveals just how dysfunctional and disorganized U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is just days before its official launch.
Gabbard’s campaign manager, Rania Batrice, is set to leave after the congresswoman’s Saturday kickoff in Hawaii as is her big name consulting firm Revolution Messaging.
And while the departures alone don’t necessarily spell disaster, they come after a series of slip-ups, mistakes and false starts.
As Politico reported, several people familiar with the campaign over the past several months described Gabbard as a candidate who “managed to be both indecisive and impulsive.”
This isn’t the first hint that Gabbard, who began serving in Congress in 2013, might be difficult to work with.
Gabbard’s office has had some of the highest turnover in all of Congress, according to data analyzed by Legistorm as part of its “Worst Bosses?” review of public salary disclosures and other congressional records.
When looking at staffing from 2001 to 2017, Legistorm found that Gabbard’s turnover score ranks 16th among her current colleagues in both the House and Senate.
However, 2018, which wasn’t included in the Legistorm analysis, appears to have been a much better year for her when it comes to retaining her employees. It’s the first year her office turnover has been less than the House average.
She’s also had relative stability in one of her most important positions — chief of staff — since 2015 when she hired Kainoa Penaroza.
Still, her turnover for the first five years of her tenure was also nearly twice as much as the other members of Hawaii’s delegation, and more than any other congressional politician who’s declared a bid for the oval office in 2020.
Legistorm notes that any member of Congress who can’t hold onto their staff might be a difficult boss and someone who struggles to get things done in Washington.
“Some members of Congress get a reputation for being hard to work for, whether due to anger management, shady ethics, poor pay, demanding too much or creating a toxic work environment,” the site says.
“Whatever the reason, the resulting office dysfunction can lead to high turnover, helping to make a member of Congress more ineffectual. One possible side-effect of high turnover is making an office less responsive to constituents while being more dependent on lobbyists for advice.”
But the site also acknowledges there are many other reasons for high turnover. Sometimes it can be a stretch of bad luck or shift in a congressional priorities that require new skill sets.
Outgoing members also see a lot of turnover as their staffers seek new opportunities. If a member is close with a particular presidential administration they might also see their staff move to the executive branch.
These variables are why the Legistorm analysis says it’s important to look at the data over time to get a fuller, more reliable picture of what might be happening inside a member’s office.
In Gabbard’s case, it’s not just low-level staff and interns who’ve fled.
Legistorm gives more weight to higher salaried and more important staffers, such as chiefs of staff and communications directors, who might be taking jobs elsewhere.
It also weighs the turnover using salaries so that comparisons can be made between House offices and Senate offices, which typically have more staff.
Stable staffing has been an issue for Gabbard almost since she first started working in Washington. The congresswoman has had particularly high turnover among her communications staff, the most recent departure coming in 2018.
It’s hard to get a true view, however, of how the staffing churn is affecting Gabbard and her office — in large part, because she won’t talk about it.
Civil Beat reached out to Gabbard’s campaign Wednesday seeking an interview with the congresswoman so she could respond to the Politico story and discuss the turnover within her office.
Her campaign spokesperson Erika Tsuji responded with a message saying she would “circle back” after Gabbard’s official kickoff on Feb. 2.
“We are excited to launch our campaign in Hawaii this weekend,” Tsuji said. “Tulsi 2020 is building a movement-based campaign that tells the story of the American people and we can’t wait to get on the road.”
Tsuji also included the written statements both Batrice and a spokesperson for Revolution Messaging sent to Politico for its story.
Data from the Federal Election Commission shows Gabbard spent more than $330,000 with Revolution Messaging and Batrice’s consulting firm, Batrice & Associates, in the 2018 election cycle.
In the 2016 cycle, FEC data shows Gabbard’s campaign paid Revolution Messaging more than $400,000, mostly for internet advertising.
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