Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz is spreading his fortune around as he contemplates a third party run for President. He is recruiting staffers and consultants from both sides of the aisle in his quest to prove he is all about working in a bi-partisan way. His latest additions are three men who formerly worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The NRCC works to elect Republicans to the House.
Howard Schultz, I’ll remind you, is a Democrat. He’s always been a Democrat. He’s on a book tour and teasing a third-party run for president with stories of hiring professionals from both parties. He’s hired anti-Trump partisans such as former Republican Steve Schmidt and Democrat Bill Burton.
They include Brendon DelToro and Matt LoParco, who served as deputy political director and external affairs director, respectively, to former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) during the 2018 cycle.
A third Schultz hire, GOP consultant Greg Strimple, founder of GS Strategy Group, has done polling and other consulting for the NRCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to campaign finance reports.
The behind- the -scene operatives can help Schultz reach out to Republican voters as he tries to cast himself as a centrist. DelToro is said to be bringing in others from the NRCC to the Schultz operation. Schultz has all the money he needs to hire as many people as he wants in a potential third party run. Current NRCC chairman Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) says he knows nothing about the Schultz hires.
Sources said Schultz, a billionaire, is throwing big money at experienced, professional Democratic and Republican operatives alike — annual salaries perhaps in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I would insist on $500,000 a year, plus moving expenses,” said a former veteran GOP presidential campaign staffer who has been closely watching the Schultz campaign take shape. “It’s a tremendous financial opportunity. Senior jobs in a presidential campaign don’t grow on trees, and if you are not enthused about working for Trump, it’s alluring. I don’t begrudge these people at all.
People in both Republican and Democrat circles say signing on with Schultz may doom future political career opportunities
“I’m only hoping he hires smart people who can advise him pragmatically on how dangerous this is,” one Democratic operative said Thursday. “Are they prepared to tell Howard Schultz, ‘the book tour is over, time to get back to real life.’ ”
That operative warned that a job on Schultz’s would-be campaign could also be toxic for anyone looking to return to Democratic politics in the future.
“Howard Schultz’s campaign represents the best opportunity Donald Trump has for reelection,” the operative said. “So, anyone who enables this process is someone [Democrats] won’t want to hire. I’m not even sure we’d want to have them over for dinner.”
The Republican consultants have been employed by GOP candidates for years, some for decades. Past NRCC Chairman Stivers voiced frustration with the news.
In an interview, Stivers said former NRCC staffers are free to do what they want but called it “frustrating” that some would choose to work for a man who is looking to oust Trump next year.
“That’s frustrating, but it’s their lives,” Stivers, a Trump ally, said in an interview with The Hill. “We had 90 Republicans operatives working for us and some of them are gonna go do other things.”
Asked specifically about DelToro, who is said to be recruiting fellow NRCC alums to the Schultz operation in Seattle, Stivers replied: “It’s a free world, and he can do what he wants. I’m not sure it will be easy for him to get back into Republican politics, but that’s on him I guess.”
Meanwhile, the book tour continues. Schultz spoke to a small audience in Houston at Rice University this week.
His anecdote-heavy speech largely focused on his leadership of Starbucks during company public relations crises, including the 2015 “Race Together” marketing campaign that largely backfired on social media, and a 2018 incident in which two black men were arrested at a Starbucks store in a racial profiling incident in Philadelphia.
But the speech also included campaign-ready talking points. He said he doubted that a Democrat in the White House would be able to move the country forward due to an inability to find a compromise with Republicans in Congress. He spoke about two-party divisions and how he believed polls suggest Americans want a third choice.
“We probably all can agree, Republican or Democrat, there’s something not quite right (in the country),” Schultz said. “Most importantly, a lack of trust.”
Speaking of a lack of trust, I don’t know that there is a big audience for Schultz on the Republican side. Sure, he’ll appeal to the anti-Trump Republicans but that number continues to shrink and Trump’s approval numbers among Republican voters remains in the 90+ range. Schultz would most likely pull from Democrat voters. He may pay lip service to fiscal conservatism but he is socially liberal and that costs taxpayer dollars, too. He openly says, for example, he wants pro-abortion judges but tries to tamp down blowback by saying abortion isn’t his top issue. I don’t think that’s a winning position with Republican voters who may be dissatisfied with Trump.
I think he’s enjoying the attention and the book tour. We’ll see if his fever dream of a third party comes closer than it did for Ross Perot. In the meantime, anti-Trump consultants in both parties can sign on and make a tidy sum as long as it lasts.