Stephanie Cutter

individual
© Image Copyright : Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer

Overview

  • Key advisor to President Barack Obama
  • Became a board-of-directors member of Organizing For Action in 2013
  • Former deputy communications director for President Bill Clinton
  • Has worked for U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Harry Reid

Stephanie Cutter was born October 22, 1968 in Taunton, Massachusetts and was raised in the nearby town of Raynham. After graduating from Smith College, she worked in the early 1990s at the Environmental Protection Agency while earning a J.D. from Georgetown Law School. She also served as an aide to then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo. In the late nineties Cutter served as deputy communications director for Bill Clinton, working to help rehabilitate the president’s image following the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment.

In 2001 Cutter became a spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. Later, on Kennedy’s recommendation, she was hired to work on John Kerry‘s 2004 presidential campaign. After the 2004 election, Cutter went back to work for Kennedy until 2006, at which time she launched her own communications business. But even after parting ways with Kennedy, Cutter maintained close contact with the senator and his family. When Kennedy fell ill in May 2008 with what would eventually be diagnosed as an inoperable brain tumor, Cutter was the first person Kennedy’s wife called after dialing 911.

In the early to mid-2000s, Cutter also spent some time as communications advisor to U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.

Cutter’s reputation as a committed leftist and a tireless worker earned her an opportunity in 2008 to work on Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign. In June of that year, she was appointed chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. Immediately following the presidential election, Cutter became the principal spokesperson for the Obama-Biden Transition Project. In early 2009, she was assigned to help Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner navigate the rough waters of his confirmation hearings, and to defend Geithner’s fragile reputation amid public criticism of unpopular policies such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the federal bailout of the multinational finance and insurance corporation AIG.

By May 2009, Cutter was prepared to return to her communications company. But President Obama asked her to stay at the White House as a consultant, to manage the public image of his first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. In this role, Cutter prepared Sotomayor for her confirmation hearings by peppering her with sample questions and overseeing media coverage of the nominee.

In the fall of 2009 the Obama administration again contacted Cutter, who had just begun a fellowship at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, and asked her to help Michelle Obama’s office with the launch of “Let’s Move!” — the First Lady’s signature anti-obesity initiative. In an effort to discourage criticism from conservatives, Cutter enlisted former Republican governor Mike Huckabee to the program. Later that year, GQ magazine named Cutter one of the 50 most powerful people in Washington.

In 2010 Cutter was appointed Assistant to the President for Special Projects, a position in which she was tasked with managing communications and outreach strategy for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — i.e., Obamacare. The following year, she was named deputy senior advisor to President Obama. In that role, Cutter was instrumental in developing the “We Can’t Wait” campaign, which called for Obama to enact economic policies—most notably a second “stimulus” bill—by executive order, and to bypass Congress entirely.

In September 2011 the White House announced that Cutter would soon leave her position as deputy senior advisor, to serve as deputy campaign manager of Obama for America (later known as Organizing for America). This would make her, in essence, the principal messenger of Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.

Throughout 2012, Cutter urged the Obama campaign to turn Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s greatest strength—his extraordinarily successful tenure at Bain Capital—into his biggest weakness. Toward that end, the campaign painted Romney as a heartless plutocrat and tax evader who could not relate to the needs of ordinary people. In July 2012, Cutter told reporters that Romney may have misrepresented the nature of his work at Bain to the Securities and Exchange Commission, “which is a felony.” Such unfounded smears against Romney were effective in poisoning the public’s perception of him.

An Obama administration aide and friend of Ms. Cutter has described the latter thusly: “All Stephanie wants is results. She is an old-school, take-no-prisoners political operative. Losing is not tolerated.”

In January 2013, Cutter became a board-of-directors member of the newly formed Organizing For Action.

In June 2013, CNN television announced that it was reviving the political program Crossfire, to be co-hosted by Stephanie Cutter, former Obama “green jobs czar” Van Jones, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and MSNBC host S.E. Cupp.

In May 2013, Cutter, in collaboration with three veterans who had worked for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign, co-founded the consulting firm Precision Strategies, where she continues to serve as a partner.

Further Reading: “Stephanie Cutter” (NY Times, 11-21-2008, ObamaWhiteHouseArchives.gov, PrecisionStrategies.com); “The 1-Woman Rapid Response Team” (Politico, 7-8-2012); “A Messenger Who Does the Shooting” (NY Times, 10-12-2012); “White House Taps Stephanie Cutter To Sell Health Care Reform” (Talking Points Memo, 4-22-2010); “Obama’s ‘We Can’t Wait’ Jobs Campaign Aims to Spur Congress into Action” (The Guardian, 10-24-2011); “Meet The Five Secret All-Stars Behind Barack Obama’s 2012 Campaign” (Business Insider, 7-18-2012); “CNN Resurrects Crossfire” (Washington Times, 6-26-2013).

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