Episode 55, with guests Michael Feldman, Chip Smith, Ben LaBolt and Arnette Heintze

Michael Feldman, Chip Smith, Ben LaBolt and Arnette Heintze are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton. 
Original Air Date: May 11, 2012 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124.
Polioptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6:00 am, 12 noon and 6:00 pm.
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When we learned through our grapevine that the brain trust of Washington, D.C. uber strategy firm Glover Park Group would be taking the shuttle up to Manhattan for a salon evening with their friends, clients and clients-in-waiting at the ultra-swanky Electric Room and Dream Downtown, we were eager have them carve out time for a quick visit to Polioptics’ NYC studios to remind our listeners about the moment the firm began to take shape.

Chip Smith, Glover Park Group


It was November 7, 2000, the election night that saw Vice President Al Gore concede defeat to Governor George W. Bush, then retract his concession when Gore/Lieberman field boss Michael Whouley called our guest, Glover Park’s Michael Feldman, to tell him to hold his horses. The races was too close to call. As history would eventually recall, Gore lost the race on a 5-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court, but not before Feldman, Whouley, Chip Smith, Bill Daley, Warren Christopher, David Morehouse David Boies, Jeremy Bash and a host of others played pivotal roles in one of the most arresting six week dramas in American History.

Someone had to lose. Those who lost, who thought they might be helping to form a Gore Administration and Inaugural in transition from the Clinton Years, instead had to manage a transition in their own lives. The drama in which they starred was extended by popular demand for an additional six weeks, but eventually they had to plot their next move.

Thus, the Glover Park Group was born, the brainchild of Feldman, Chip Smith, Carter Eskew and Joe Lockhart. Over time, the firm has burgeoned, providing a home to many of the shrewdest minds in Washington who have had GPG on their business cards over the last decade. As watchers of the firm will note, GPG was sold in late 2011 to giant PR aggregator WPP Group, though our guests Feldman and Smith remain with the firm to guide its continued growth.

In their conversation with Adam Belmar and me, Chip and Mike acknowledged that the unpredictable path of events on that night in Nashville nearly 12 years ago might qualify them for therapy. Watching a few minutes of the cable news coverage that night, it’s easy to understand why.


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Where the Gore Campaign stumbled at the finish line in 2000, the Obama Campaign stormed over it eight years later. Under the leadership of David Axelrod and David Plouffe, the “Change We Can Believe In” effort avoided many of the mistakes of 2000 and 2004, riding an impeccable political performer in Senator Barack Obama into the White House in 2009.

In Part 7 of The Story of Polioptics, we examined a number of the sophisticated marketing techniques that contributed to the Obama 2008 victory.

What we largely omitted in our technical appraisal of the campaign’s marketing was the contribution of a team of loyal aides like Ben LaBolt who signed on to Senator Obama’s longshot campaign early in the process and provided the tireless energy that all winning campaigns need. It’s one thing to stage strong images and write good speeches; it’s another thing entirely to have the steel spine necessary to push back on the range of incoming attacks that every national campaign receives. LaBolt’s spine is one of the steeliest.

After serving in the White House Press office for about two years, LaBolt followed Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel out to the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to serve as Rahm’s communications director for his successful quest to succeed Richard Daley as the Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. With that effort done, LaBolt returned to the Obama fold as the 2012 campaign press secretary, the same post Glover Park Group founder Joe Lockhart held in 1996 prior to inheriting the podium of White House Press Secretary in 1997 following the reelection of President Bill Clinton.

In this episode of Polioptics, Adam Belmar and I caught up with Ben for a few minutes on the phone from Obama 2012 headquarters in Chicago.

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Speaking of Chicago, Mayor Emanuel and his city are getting ready to host one of the largest international summits on the perennial roster of major events: the gathering of heads of state and government of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which begins on May 20 at McCormick Place.

Arnette Heintze

With institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations housed within their municipalities, cites like Washington, D.C. and New York are used to erecting barricades and clearing the streets for motorcades when dozens of delegations arrive to practice diplomacy. For them, it’s all in a year’s work.

But for cities like Miami, Seattle and Denver, which hosted the Summit of the Americas, the APEC Summit and the Summit of the 8 during the Clinton Years, the arrival of world leaders turned out to be a financial, logistical and security challenge that required the collective teamwork of governmental, civic and law enforcement organizations to make everything tick.

One of the veterans of those Clinton-era summits was Arnette Heintze, a former Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service Presidential Protection Division who is today CEO of Hillard Heintze, one of the world’s fastest-growing enterprise risk management specialists. Arnette’s current assignment: advising the City of Chicago and its business community how best to keep the machines of industry humming while simultaneously welcoming the world.

With the clock ticking down to the beginning of the NATO Summit, Arnette took a few minutes with Adam Belmar and me to discuss the preparations that are being put in place.

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