Heather Podesta is a Democratic-aligned lobbyist and lawyer who runs Invariant Group, the largest female-owned lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. Podesta and her firm have worked for a range of organizations across the political spectrum. Though Podesta and her staff have worked in nearly every industry, her firm focuses primarily on lobbying on taxation, trade, and workplace regulation policies.
Podesta, who was married to Democratic operative Tony Podesta from 2003 to 2014, has drawn allegations of hypocrisy from the left, given her status as a Democratic donor who nonetheless often works with clients to push pro-business policy. Podesta’s work as a lobbyist has led her to be involved in several scandals, including allegations of using personal connections in the State Department to secure foreign military contracts for Raytheon. Podesta and her ex-husband have also faced allegations of using campaign contributions to discourage then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) from investigating one of their lobbying clients, Herbalife. 
Podesta is a large-scale Democratic donor, having raised and bundled over $800,000 for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Podesta also made maximum personal contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in both 2019 and 2020.
Outside of her work in politics, Podesta is a noted patron of the arts, owning a valuable contemporary art collection, including Shepard Fairey’s famous “Hope” collage produced in support of President Barack Obama’s political candidacies. Podesta has donated pieces to various museums, including the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA).
Heather graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in economics before receiving her law degree from the University of Virginia.  Podesta then began a long career in lobbying and government relations, beginning in 1993 when she spent a year as a legislative fellow for then-United States Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ).  Podesta also worked for former US Representatives Robert Matsui (D-CA) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) in 2002 and 2003.  Aside from working directly with political officials, Podesta worked as assistant general counsel to the Air Transport Association of America. 
Before founding her own lobbying firm, Podesta worked for Blank Rome Government Relations, a lobbying firm with offices in New York and Washington, D.C.   In 2007, Podesta founded Heather Podesta + Partners, a firm that has become the largest woman-owned firm in the DC area.  In 2017, Podesta and Partners rebranded to the Invariant Group.  The firm advertises itself as a “bipartisan team,” working in a range of issue areas for companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to small start-ups and trade organizations.  These include Toyota, the Geothermal Exchange Organization, Home Depot, Cigna, and Uber, among others. 
As of 2020, Invariant Group has given the fourth-most money of all lobbying groups to candidates and parties, giving $541,948 so far in 2019 and 2020 alone.  Podesta and her firm have lobbied on behalf of dozens of corporations, trade organizations, and associations spread across the political spectrum. Podesta’s staff boasts a large number of “revolvers,” former government officials who take on lobbying positions with the same agencies for which they used to work.  In 2019, Podesta’s staff included 19 lobbyists, 13 of whom were former government officials or staff members. 
Most of Podesta’s clients hire her firm to work on financial policy, including trade, taxation, and workplace regulation.  Accordingly, most of Podesta’s staff lobby the White House, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Commerce, with twelve, ten, and six lobbyists assigned to each agency respectively.  Podesta’s largest client as of 2019 is Fitbit Inc, which spent $500,000 on lobbying in 2019.  Podesta has also focused on recruiting Republican lobbyists to her firm, expanding into the right-leaning market following the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. 
Podesta has drawn criticism from the far left related to her support for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  In 2019, Podesta bundled over $100,000 in donations to the DCCC, in addition to her own personal maximum contribution.  That year, far-left publication Sludge released a report alleging that Podesta and six other lobbyists have undue influence over the DCCC, given that they represent health care and energy companies which “are threatened by key progressive policies like a ‘Medicare for All’ healthcare system and a ‘Green New Deal’ to address climate change.”  Sludge reporters criticized Podesta’s donations because her firm represents pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Cigna, and Baxter Healthcare Corporation.  Podesta’s firm represented Cigna as the company sought to reform damaging provisions of Obamacare in 2016 and lobbied on behalf of LSB Chemical to support nitrogen-based fertilizers after a chemical explosion in Texas which resulted in 15 deaths and nearly 150 injuries. 
In 2019, Heather Podesta was implicated in a scandal involving then-Democratic presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris during her time as Attorney General of California.  In 2013, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and four other organizations urged Harris to investigate Herbalife, a nutritional supplement maker accused of fraud and exploitation of the Latino community.  Harris denied the request without explanation, even though across the United States, similar investigations against Herbalife were being pursued. 
Two years later, prosecutors in the San Diego office of the California Attorney General urged Harris to investigate Herbalife for deceptive marketing practices.  Harris again refused; observers have linked the denial to Podesta’s campaign contributions.  Three weeks after the San Diego office sent its letter, Harris received the first of three donations to her campaign for United States Senate from Heather Podesta.  At the time, Podesta was still married to Tony Podesta, the well-connected Democratic-aligned lobbyist whose firm (known as Podesta Group) had lobbied for Herbalife since 2013.  Soon after Heather Podesta made the donations, Herbalife hired her lobbying firm as well.  Even after the Federal Trade Commission opened its own investigation against Herbalife, Harris refused to open an investigation after receiving the Podesta donations.  The FTC won a $200 million settlement from Herbalife for fraud, and other states that sued Herbalife also won settlements in the following year. 
In 2012, Raytheon hired Heather Podesta to lobby the White House and State Department in which her then-brother-in-law held a prominent role.  Podesta was tasked with enlarging its share of foreign military sales of equipment to other countries before Clinton left office.  Podesta herself had previously raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and received $100,000 in payments from Raytheon to lobby the State Department. 
During the time Heather Podesta lobbied the State Department, Raytheon secured $26 billion worth of foreign military sales contracts, $19 billion of which came from contracts with Qatar.  As revealed in emails hacked from John Podesta’s personal account, the Qatari government pledged $1 million to the Clinton Foundation to celebrate former President Bill Clinton’s birthday, in exchange for a “five-minute” meeting with Bill Clinton.  As soon as Hillary Clinton stepped down from her position as Secretary of State, Raytheon ceased contracting with Heather Podesta, sparking allegations that the contract was given to Heather Podesta thanks to her connections to the State Department and former mass fundraising efforts in support of Hillary Clinton. 
Heather Podesta denied ever having lobbied Hillary Clinton or John Podesta on the matter of Raytheon’s Qatar contracts. 
Heather Podesta, especially throughout her marriage to Tony Podesta, became a noted Democratic fundraiser, frequently hosting lavish parties in their home filled with high-priced works of art on behalf of Democratic candidates and public officials. 
In 2009, Podesta organized a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) featuring lobbyists and potential donors.  At that point, Feinstein sat on the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Appropriations Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Rules Committee.  Podesta sent invitations to guests which promised “the Select Committee on Intelligence for the first course followed by your choice of Appropriations, Judiciary, or Rules committees.”  Feinstein canceled the event after hearing about the provocative invitation. 
Aside from hosting fundraising events for Democratic officials, Podesta herself has made 77 donations to Democratic officials and campaign committees in 2019 and 2020 alone, totaling $303,270.  Alongside small donations to a variety of congressional candidates, Podesta made maximum contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in both 2019 and 2020. 
Affiliation with Hillary Clinton
In 2016, Podesta came in among the top “bundlers” to Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the presidential race, securing over $400,000 in donations from June to September 2016 alone.  Taken over the course of the two-year campaign cycle, Podesta raised and bundled over $800,000 in total for the Clinton campaign.  Podesta also volunteered for Clinton during the New Hampshire primaries and attended the left-of-center Center for American Progress (CAP) Ideas Conference, billed as a platform for resisting President Donald Trump. 
Podesta, in addition to other lobbyists who contributed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, came under fire from radical environmentalists who accused Clinton of accepting money from the conventional energy industry.  Podesta, who had represented Marathon Oil and Oxbow Corp, and eleven other oil and gas lobbyists who bundled donations on Clinton’s behalf, sparked the allegations that Clinton accepted high amounts of funding from energy firms. 
After Clinton’s loss in the November election, Podesta aimed to distance herself from the campaign in order to retain business during the Trump administration. Podesta went so far as to rebrand her lobbying firm from “Heather Podesta + Partners” to “Invariant,” in order to reflect “an expanding bipartisan team” which boasted of ties to the Trump administration.  Podesta has continued to lobby for pro-business policy shifts, including delaying the implementation of the Obama-era fiduciary rule, all while herself contributing to Democratic campaigns and candidates. 
Advocacy for Lobbyists
In 2008 and 2012, Heather Podesta created tension at the Democratic National Convention.  Though Podesta is a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates, she attended both conferences wearing a scarlet “L” brocade in protest of Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s criticisms of political lobbyists.  Podesta went on to hand out 99 of such letters at the convention in a show of support for political lobbying. 
Podesta shared in an interview with Time magazine that throughout the Obama administration, she was not allowed to give money to President Barack Obama’s campaigns or to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) because of Obama’s policy to not accept donations from lobbyists.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton and the DNC lifted the ban on donations from lobbyists, a move which Podesta praised by telling Time “my money is now good.” 
Podesta is notable in her dismissal of left-of-center concerns regarding lobbyist pay.  Podesta called the idea of taking money out of politics, often espoused by Barack Obama and countless other left-of-center representatives, “preposterous.”  When asked why lobbyists are paid exorbitant salaries by an audience member during an interview with far-left news website The Intercept on Facebook Live, Podesta, a multi-millionaire herself, laughed and commented that lobbyists are “not paid enough.” 
Relationship with Tony Podesta
In 2003, after two years of dating, Podesta married powerful lobbyist Tony Podesta, co-founder of the Podesta Group, brother of Clinton (and later Obama) White House figure John Podesta, and longtime political influencer.  Heather, 26 years younger than Tony, had been married twice before marrying Tony and joining lobbying forces.  The pair became well known in the lobbying industry for their expensive tastes, seen as symbols of pride in their profession which has often been criticized from the right and left alike. 
During her tenure as an attorney for Congressman Robert Matsui (D-CA), Heather Podesta was accused of wanting special treatment thanks to her relationship with the powerful lobbyist.  During the height of a congressional session when staff presence was critical, Podesta took time off, alleging that she had a family event to attend in the United States.  A supervisor later learned that she had flown to Italy, where Podesta then owned a vacation home. 
The Podestas became widely known as Democratic allies and fundraisers, frequently hosting lavish events on behalf of Democratic officials.  Their lobbying firms also shared intelligence from Capitol Hill, and in cases in which conflicts of interest between clients arose, they would refer clients to one another. 
In 2013, the Podestas underwent a bitter divorce amidst rumors that Heather Podesta had begun dating Los Angeles filmmaker Stephen Kessler.  Divorce filings include allegations of Heather Podesta locking herself in Tony Podesta’s bedroom and rifling through his personal safe and suitcase following the split when she was permitted back into his home for a videotaped inventory of her belongings.  After almost a year-long legal battle and over 109 hours spent with a mediator, the couple finalized their divorce in 2014. 
Heather Podesta is a noted art dealer and philanthropist, having acquired a substantial art collection during her marriage and divorce with Tony Podesta. As of 2014, Podesta is a member on the board of trustees at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. 
Known for her own famous contemporary art collection, Podesta has made several donations to various museums over the past several years. In 2009, Podesta acquired the iconic red-and-blue “Hope” collage of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama designed by Shepard Fairey which inspired countless campaign posters and graphics.  That year, Heather and Tony Podesta donated the work to the National Portrait Gallery, making it the first portrait of President Barack Obama to enter the gallery. 
The following year, Heather and Tony Podesta were named in Washington Life’s “Philanthropic 50” for their donations to the visual arts world, most notably a mass gift of 300 valuable contemporary art pieces to the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Two years later, ARTnews listed Heather and Tony Podesta as among the top 200 art collectors in the world.