Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has launched a major reorganization of the party’s organization that has been stung by recent crisis — and the DNC has requested the resignation letters of all current staffers be submitted by next month.
Party staffs typically sees major turnover with a new boss, but the mass resignation letters will give Perez a chance to completely remake the DNC’s headquarters from scratch after staffing had already reached unusual low following a round of layoffs in December.
Immediately after Perez’ election in late February, a to adviser to outgoing DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, asked every employee to submit a letter of resignation dated April 15, according to multiple sources familiar with the party’s internal working.
A committee advising Perez on his transition is now interviewing staff and others as part of a top-to-bottom review process to help decide not only who will stay and who will go, but how the party should be structured in the future.
Major staffing and structure changes will be announced in coming weeks, one aide said.
“This is longstanding precedent at the DNC and has happened during multiple Chair transitions,” said DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. “The process was started before the election of the new Chair. From the beginning, Tom has been adamant that we structure the DNC for future campaigns. Current and future DNC staff will be integral to that effort. Over the last few months, the DNC staff has done incredible work under immense pressure to hold Trump accountable.”
Perez is the party’s third leader in the past year, which was one of its most difficult on record.
It began with accusations of favoritism leveled by two presidential candidates, continued with the wrenching exposure of hacked emails and abrupt resignation of former chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then concluded with the shocking defeat of its presidential nominee and a divisive race for the new chairman.
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The DNC was also hit with charges that it favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary while it was supposed to remain neutral in the contest.
The experience, which followed years in which Democrats felt the Obama White House ignored the party, has left the DNC with a crisis of confidence and competence at a time Americans are turning away from political parties in general.
Now Perez, who spent most of his career in government and not politics, has to rebuild the party, take on President Donald Trump, tap into a unique moment of grassroots activism, and run and fund a partisan bureaucracy all at once.
“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” California Gov. Jerry Brown told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I was the Democratic Party chairman in California — it’s a miserable job. So, Tom, too bad.”
Perez has spent his first weeks on the job in “active listening mode,” hearing from Democrats in Washington and in small group meetings across the country before making any big moves.
“What we’re trying to do is culture change,” he told NBC News between stops of a listening tour in Michigan Friday. “We’re repairing a plane at 20,000 feet. You can’t land the plane, shut it down, and close it until further notice.”
“If your goal is you have to please everyone then you end up pleasing no one,” he added.
It’s a whirlwind job that took Perez from being feted at a donor conference at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington Thursday night to playing Solitaire on his iPhone in row 31 on a Delta flight to Detroit shortly after dawn the next morning.
The DNC will embark on a national search to fill key positions, overseen by the 30-odd members Transition Advisory Committee, which could take some time to fill.
The committee, whose members were told they are not eligible for DNC jobs, is also reviewing the DNC’s contracts with vendors and consultants, a source of complaints from many Democrats.
Progressives criticized the committee’s initial makeup, leading the DNC add several more members from their ranks.
The DNC also needs to sort out roles for its five vice chairs, with whom Perez spent a Friday retreat white-boarding, and Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, Perez’ rival-cum-partner.
Earlier this month, Perez held a meeting to discuss the issue with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sanders, both of whom supported Ellison in the DNC chair race, along with Ellison, Sanders aides Jeff Weaver and Larry Cohen, and others.
Schumer, pointing to Ellison and Sanders, told Perez, “If he’s happy, and if he’s happy, then I’m happy,” according to two sources.
Perez has included Ellison in many of the DNC’s public event so far, but the party’s charter makes no provision for a deputy chair, so Ellison does not actually have vote on the DNC. That could be fixed by naming the Minnesota congressman to one of the 75 slots the chairman gets to appoint to the national committee.
Ellison’s political director has also been helping to oversee staffing decisions in some key departments in the DNC, according to several sources.