A report by Politico outlining the dysfunction and toxic environment in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office recalls similar stories about the final days of her 2020 presidential campaign, which fell apart before the first nominating contest.
As the wheels came off the then-California senator’s primary run, stories of mistreatment of employees and dissent in the ranks began bubbling up before eventually spilling into public view.
In November 2019, the Harris campaign’s state operations director, Kelly Mehlenbacher, stepped down. Her resignation letter contained a blistering account of mismanagement that had culminated in major staff layoffs days earlier.
“This is my third presidential campaign,” Mehlenbacher wrote, “and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly.”
“With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win,” the departing operative added.
Politico’s reporting about the current state of the Veep’s office — which cites current and former Harris aides, White House officials, and others — contains echoes of the stories from the campaign trail.
A source told Politico that in Harris’ office, “People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment. It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s—.”
According to reports at the time, much of the blame for Harris’ flop as a presidential candidate was laid at the feet of two figures: campaign manager Juan Rodriguez, and campaign chairwoman Maya Harris, the vice president’s sister. Neither occupy current positions in the vice president’s office, and yet the complaints about problems coming from “the very top” persist.
Harris has previously drawn fire for her handling of the border crisis, which was assigned to her portfolio by President Biden in March. Since then criticism has mounted, especially around the vice president’s failure for several months to visit the southern border. The vice president did visit El Paso, Texas, last week, but criticism of her handling of the illegal immigration crisis — such as her insistence on dealing with its “root causes” — has continued.
Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders tried to tamp down the reports of dissension in the vice president’s office, telling Politico that “We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day.
“What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club,’” adding, “We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”