Person

Kelly Craighead

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Advocacy Operative

Role:

CEO, Cruise Line International Association

Notable for:

Former president of Democracy Alliance and associate of Hillary Clinton

Kelly Craighead is the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and former president of Democracy Alliance, a major donor clearinghouse for Democratic and left-wing donors and advocacy organizations. Craighead started her political career in the Clinton White House and is reportedly a close associate and friend of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton White House

There is little information available about Kelly Craighead’s early career, but she briefly worked as a sales manager. [1]  In 1993, she began working in the Clinton administration as an aide to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton (D). In 2000, Craighead worked on Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign and raised $500,000 for the campaign before becoming embroiled in a campaign finance scandal. [2] Campaign financial director David Rosen was accused of hiding $800,000 in fundraising costs to artificially boost the appearance Clinton’s fundraising numbers; federal authorities further alleged that Craighead was aware of the financial misconduct and did not act to stop it. Rosen was indicted but not convicted; while Craighead was listed as a witness, she did not testify and faced no charges. [3]

Craighead has been described as a “good friend” of Hillary Clinton. [4] Bill and Hillary Clinton presided over Craighead’s marriage to Erik Mullen, a Democratic consultant and former aide to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The couple celebrated their engagement in the White House. [5] [6]

Fundraising

After the Clintons left the White House, Craighead initially worked as a consultant to lobbyists in Washington D.C., [7] and then made a name for herself as a Democratic fundraiser. In 2004, Craighead worked as a fundraiser for the newly-formed Media Matters for America, a left-of-center media watchdog, and successfully established a financial base of $60 million. [8] [9]

From 2006-2013, Craighead led Democracy Alliance. [10] Craighead was noted to orient the organization around partisan Democratic politics over left-leaning ideological goals. Controversially, Craighead led the integration of Democratic Super PACs into the Democracy Alliance, which critics within the organization believed betrayed the group’s grassroots image. [11] Craighead was described as having “extensive ties to the [2012] Obama campaign,” [12] and raised almost $500,000 for it. [13]

Soon after taking over Democracy Alliance, the group arranged $6 million in contributions to Media Matters, Craighead’s former employer. [14]

According to the Huffington Post, Craighead’s successor at Democracy Alliance, Gara LaMarche, was chosen to indicate to donors an organizational shift back to prioritizing ideological goals over political goals. [15] Politico described the departure of Craighead as the final untethering of Democracy Alliance from Hillary Clinton, as the organization consolidated around President Barack Obama (D). [16]

Later Career

At some point, Craighead founded Vertimas Consulting, a consulting firm for international tourism companies. [17]

From 2014-2017, Craighead worked as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism and Executive Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office in the Obama administration. [18] She has described the position as “de facto tourism minister of the United States. [19] Craighead allegedly led initiatives that generated $250 billion in tourism revenue for the United States. [20]

In 2019, Craighead became CEO of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a trade association for cruise lines. [21] In March 2020, Craighead announced the industry’s “unprecedented” decision to suspend all cruise sailings for thirty days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [22]

In July 2020, Craighead became a board member of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency. [23]

In 2021, Craighead called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to end its ‘no sail’ order for cruise ships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. [24]

Craighead is vice chairman and executive director of the Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation (CICF). [25]

References

  1. “Charm offensive.” World Cruise Industry Review. August 29, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.worldcruiseindustryreview.com/features/featurecharm-offensive-7390376/. ^
  2. Wollner, Adam. “Clinton Allies, Politicians Among Obama’s New Blunders.” Open Secrets. July 20, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/07/obama-campaign-releases-new-bundler/. ^
  3. McMorris, Bill. “Kelly Craighead: Madame President.” Washington Free Beacon. September 28, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democracy-alliance/kelly-craighead-president-of-the-democracy-alliance/. ^
  4. “Billionaires for Big Government.” Human Events. January 15, 2008. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://archive.humanevents.com/2008/01/15/billionaires-for-big-government/. ^
  5. Kurtz, Josh. “Mullen it Over.” Roll Call. April 2, 2003. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://rollcall.com/2003/04/02/mullen-it-over/. ^
  6. Grove, Lloyd. “The Reliable Source.” Washington Post. July 27, 2001. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2001/07/27/the-reliable-source/203f4298-b881-41d8-9437-cabed1acebb1/. ^
  7. “Charm offensive.” World Cruise Industry Review. August 29, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.worldcruiseindustryreview.com/features/featurecharm-offensive-7390376/. ^
  8. McMorris, Bill. “Kelly Craighead: Madame President.” Washington Free Beacon. September 28, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democracy-alliance/kelly-craighead-president-of-the-democracy-alliance/. ^
  9. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Clinton left out by liberal donor club.” Politico. November 12, 2014. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/hillary-clinton-democracy-alliance-2016-elections-112831. ^
  10. Limone, Jerry. “CLIA names Kelly Craighead as CEO.” Travel Weekly. November 28, 2018. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.travelweekly.com/Cruise-Travel/CLIA-names-Kelly-Craighead-as-CEO. ^
  11. McMorris, Bill. “Kelly Craighead: Madame President.” Washington Free Beacon. September 28, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democracy-alliance/kelly-craighead-president-of-the-democracy-alliance/. ^
  12. McMorris, Bill. “Kelly Craighead: Madame President.” Washington Free Beacon. September 28, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democracy-alliance/kelly-craighead-president-of-the-democracy-alliance/. ^
  13. “Obama’s Top Fund-Raisers.” The New York Times. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/09/13/us/politics/obamas-top-fund-raisers.html. ^
  14. McMorris, Bill. “Kelly Craighead: Madame President.” Washington Free Beacon. September 28, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://freebeacon.com/democracy-alliance/kelly-craighead-president-of-the-democracy-alliance/. ^
  15. [1] Grim, Ryan. “Democracy Alliance, Network Of Rich Liberal Donors, Signals Shift Away From Partisan Political Activity.” Huffington Post. October 8, 2013. Updated October 9, 2013. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/democracy-alliance_n_4064495. ^
  16. Vogel, Kenneth P. “Clinton left out by liberal donor club.” Politico. November 12, 2014. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/hillary-clinton-democracy-alliance-2016-elections-112831. ^
  17. “Kelly Craighead.” Visit Florida. Accessed March 29, 2022. https://www.visitflorida.org/about-us/who-we-are/board-of-directors/member-biography/?q=M30O2DsGTczYFmqRouo6iLhBbJ027rXjwGK9mb1Fl4AD%2BZc9R2%2B5uNHYfq1B0tvf%2FOTz%2BSg0ycg%3D. ^
  18. Sampson, Hannah. “Cruise Trade Group Taps Political Insider as New CEO.” Skift. November 30, 2018. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://skift.com/2018/11/30/cruise-trade-group-taps-political-insider-as-new-ceo/. ^
  19. “Charm offensive.” World Cruise Industry Review. August 29, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.worldcruiseindustryreview.com/features/featurecharm-offensive-7390376/. ^
  20. “Kelly Craighead Named New CLIA President, CEO.” Travel Agent Central. November 28, 2018. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.travelagentcentral.com/people/kelly-craighead-named-new-clia-president-ceo. ^
  21. Kalosh, Anne. “Tourism and advocacy veteran Kelly Craighead to lead CLIA.” Seatrade Cruise News. November 28, 2018. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.seatrade-cruise.com/news-headlines/tourism-and-advocacy-veteran-kelly-craighead-lead-clia. ^
  22. Hamm, Catherine; Forgione, Mary; Swanson, David. “Cruise lines suspending trips for 30 days, cruise association says.” Los Angeles Times. March 13, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:7cEvhVx4CBYJ:https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2020-03-13/cruise-lines-suspending-trips-for-30-days-cruise-association-says+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. ^
  23. “Kelly Craighead.” Visit Florida. Accessed March 29, 2022. https://www.visitflorida.org/about-us/who-we-are/board-of-directors/member-biography/?q=M30O2DsGTczYFmqRouo6iLhBbJ027rXjwGK9mb1Fl4AD%2BZc9R2%2B5uNHYfq1B0tvf%2FOTz%2BSg0ycg%3D. ^
  24. Jones, Douglas. “CDC reviews Nov 1. ‘no sail’ order amid pandemic push from cruise industry to change ‘outdated’ rule.” WNEP. March 24, 2021. Accessed March 31, 2022. https://www.wnep.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/covid-cdc-cruise-sail-order/507-349a6208-9ab3-4078-8965-04a179d2d2bb. ^
  25. “Kelly Craighead.” Visit Florida. Accessed March 29, 2022. https://www.visitflorida.org/about-us/who-we-are/board-of-directors/member-biography/?q=M30O2DsGTczYFmqRouo6iLhBbJ027rXjwGK9mb1Fl4AD%2BZc9R2%2B5uNHYfq1B0tvf%2FOTz%2BSg0ycg%3D. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Democracy Alliance (DA) (Other Group)
    Managing Director
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