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Tipsheet

The Reason a Top Harris Staffer Bailed on the Campaign Is Extremely Enlightening

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Things aren't looking so hot for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). Not only has she gone from a first-tier candidate to a second-tier candidate, her campaign is hemorrhaging money up the wazoo and they've had to "restructure," which also meant laying off campaign staffers. But the real icing on the cake is when her State Operations Director, Kelly Mehlenbacher, resigned and rival Michael Bloomberg picked Mehlenbacher up as a campaign staffer over Thanksgiving.

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What's amazing, however, is the insight Mehlenbacher's letter provides to those of us on the outside. 

The former Harris staffer has "never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly." That's saying something considering Mehlenbacher has worked for three presidential campaigns and as an accountant or treasurer for various Political Action Committees (PACs) and organizations related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Apparently the straw that broke the camel's back, at least for Mehlenbacher, was the latest restructuring and layoffs that took place a couple weeks ago. 

"It is not acceptable to me that we encourage people to move from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore only to lay them off with no notice, with no plan for the campaign, and without thoughtful consideration of the personal consequences to them or the consequences that their absence would have on the remaining staff," Mehlenbacher wrote in her resignation letter. "It is unacceptable that we would lay off anyone that we hired only weeks earlier. It is unacceptable that with less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win. Our campaign For the People is made up of diverse talent which is being squandered by indecision and a lack of 'leaders who will lead.' That is unacceptable.'"

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But the most telling aspect of Harris' campaign is the lack of leadership. According to this resignation letter, Harris' top leadership continually makes the same mistakes over and over again and none of the decision makers seem to learn from them. It makes sense though. Not every aspect of a political campaign can be pinpointed down to a T. No one knows for sure exactly how much money people will donate, which is why campaigns often pay people pennies on the dollar for their work and try to keep costs low. There's literally a saying in politics: you don't go into campaign or politics for the money. You go because of your passion. If you get rich along the way, well, then you're one of the lucky ones.

There's no excuse though to hire someone, get them to move to Baltimore, where the campaign is headquartered, just to lay them off a few weeks down the road. There's no way a campaign manager and treasurer can't see that the numbers don't add up. If they did and they still hired people with the hopes that things would get better, that donations would trickle in and they could save a failing campaign, then staffers are justified in their anger. 

According to Mehlenbacher, the campaign's leadership fails to "address the staff to explain, apologize or reassure us of the decisions being made and a path forward." Staffers don't feel as though they can address their issues or concerns. In fact, they feel more comfortable going to the press than they do to their superiors. 

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"It certainly does not help the team to read about campaign discord in Politico (or various other publications) because those with things to say have decided the best way to air their grievances is in the press instead of to leadership," she wrote.

It's only a matter of time before Harris' campaign continually implodes. They're hanging on by the smallest of threads. They're hanging on to a little bit of cash and a little bit of hope. Unfortunately for them, it takes cash, not hope, to keep a presidential campaign going. 

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