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Tipsheet

CDC Spent Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Media Training, Executive Coaching for Walensky

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Taxpayers spent tens of thousands of dollars for Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to receive media training and improve her management skills from private firms, despite those services already available in the federal government.

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According to a Freedom of Information Act request by Americans for Public Trust and first reported by Politico, CDC expense filings show the Biden administration spent $25,750 and authorized an additional $30,500 for these services.

Starting in October 2021, Walensky enlisted longtime Democratic political consultant Mandy Grunwald for media training, conducted virtually, at a cost of about $500 per hour, according to the filings. In total, the CDC has paid Grunwald’s firm $16,000, with authorization to spend $14,000 more.

In addition, Walensky has also regularly seen a coach to improve her management skills. The CDC haspaid Boston-based Tim Sullivan’s firm, Wellesley Partners, $9,750 beginning in March 2021 with authorization to pay $16,500 more. Those sessions also run at $500 an hour.

The spending is allowed under the Government Employees Training Act (GETA) which gives agencies discretion on paying for employee training.

The expense authorization filings from the CDC require a stated “training objective.” And in that training objective field, Grunwald’s firm wrote that it would “assist [Walensky’s] team in crafting clear language to communicate CDC's public health guidance and coach Dr. Walensky to effectively deal with television interviews and other public communications." […]

Grunwald and Sullivan’s firm were hired despite the fact that the federal government already has coaching programs set up for the executive branch whose “services may be shared across agencies at no cost,” according to the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, which helps coordinate the programs. (West Wing Playbook)

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“Dr. Walensky’s entire tenure has been plagued by poor communication, conflicting guidance, and a forced revamp of her agency,” said Americans for Public Trust executive director Caitlin Sutherland. “And now we learn that taxpayers are on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in coaches and consultants to keep her afloat.”

Twitter users were stunned that she received training given her many communication failures

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