For-profit

SKDKnickerbocker

Website:

www.skdknick.com/

Formation:

2004

Industry:

Political Consulting

Founders:

Bob Squier and William Knapp

SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) is a left-of-center media and communications consultancy. SKDK was founded in 2004 by Democratic political consultants Bob Squier and William Knapp. Since then, SKDK has made connections with major figures within the Democratic Party, including Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as well as pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Emily’s List. [1] The firm also has contracts with major corporate clients, including American Airlines, Delta, Under Armour, and Amazon, among others.  [2]

Background

In January 2021, the Biden administration hired SKDK managing director Anita Dunn to serve as a senior advisor to the president. Dunn previously served as Obama’s White House communications director from April 2009 until November 2009, when she resigned after calling infamous Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong as one of her “favorite political philosophers.” After leaving the administration, Dunn continued to make frequent visits to the White House while working at SKDK, and served as a senior campaign advisor for Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign. [3]

Controversies

In August 2020, the state of California awarded a $35 million contract to SKDK for a voter outreach campaign. The decision to award the contract to a partisan firm, which proudly boasted that it was on “team Biden” came under scrutiny in the state. The outreach was led by SKDK CEO Josh Isay, a former aide to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. [4]

In December 2020, a month after the election, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had received over $34 million worth of invoices from SKDK, which the state has struggled to pay in part due to its massive budget deficit, which has been exacerbated by the state’s strict Covid-19 restrictions. Padilla had previously claimed that his office would be able to pay for the contract with funds allocated to the state in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but an official in the State Controller’s Officer later claimed that the Secretary of State’s office did not have the authority to approve the funds for the contract. [5]

At the time, Padilla was under consideration to take incoming Vice President Kamala Harris’ seat in the U.S. Senate. A group of House Republicans sent a letter to the Inspector General in December 2020 demanding an investigation into the matter, and accused Padilla of engaging in a “misuse of taxpayer money and a violation of the law.” [6] Despite the controversy, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom ultimately tapped Padilla to replace Harris [7] in the Senate, and was ultimately sworn in as the state’s junior senator on January 20, 2021.

References

  1. Nester, Alex. “Forced from Obama Admin for Praising Mao, Anita Dunn to Return to White House,” January 15, 2021. https://freebeacon.com/politics/forced-from-obama-admin-for-praising-mao-anita-dunn-to-return-to-white-house/. ^
  2. Public Affairs Agencies of the Year. 2018 https://www.provokemedia.com/events-awards/agencies-of-the-year/2018-agencies-of-the-year/north-america/public-affairs-agencies-of-the-year ^
  3. Lichtblau, Eric, and Eric Lipton. “Strategizing for the President, and Corporate Clients, Too,” October 19, 2012. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/us/politics/anita-dunn-both-insider-and-outsider-in-obama-camp.html. ^
  4. Korte, L. California to spend $35 million on mail voting campaign run by firm with ‘Team Biden’ ties. August 27,2020  https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article245279195.html ^
  5. Korte, Lara. “California Owes $34 Million on a Voter Outreach Contract It Can’t Pay For,” December 4, 2020. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article247538215.html. ^
  6. Korte, Lara. “California Owes $34 Million on a Voter Outreach Contract It Can’t Pay For,” December 4, 2020. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article247538215.html. ^
  7. California, State of. “Governor Gavin Newsom Selects Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s Next United States Senator,” December 22, 2020. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/12/22/governor-gavin-newsom-selects-secretary-of-state-alex-padilla-as-californias-next-united-states-senator/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Hilary Rosen
    Managing Director
  2. Nicole Gill
    Former Vice President
  3. Gabe Roth
    Former Vice President
  4. Stefan Friedman
    Former Managing Director & President
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