Trouble in liberal paradise? Rumors are leaking from Vice President Kamala Harris’ office that to work for her means suffering in an “abusive environment.” In a huge report, 22 current and former staffers spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity Wednesday. Staffers are often “thrown under the bus” when things go wrong they said.
Many of the concerns and discontentment was aimed at Harris’ chief of staff, Tina Flournoy. “Aides and allies said Flournoy, in an apparent effort to protect Harris, has instead created an insular environment where ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out” reports Politico.
“Often, they said, she refuses to take responsibility for delicate issues and blames staffers for the negative results that ensue” Politico added. The VP herself bears responsibility as well for the way her office is run says thee administration officials who, like former staff, requested anonymity in order to speak freely. “It all starts at the top” said the official.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said another individual. “It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s—.”
The dysfunction in the VP’s ranks threatens to complicate the White House’s carefully crafted image as a place staffed by a close-knit group of professionals working in concert to advance the president’s agenda. It’s pronounced enough that members of the president’s own team have taken notice and are concerned about the way Harris’ staffers are treated.
Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris, pushed back against the complaints and defended Flournoy saying she has an “open door policy” and that “Black women like me would not have the opportunity to work in politics without Tina.” Of the chief of staff’s anonymous critics, she added: “People are cowards to do this this way.”
“We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club,’” Sanders added. “We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”
Harris and Flournoy’s defenders also note that women in power—Black women in particular—are subjected to standards that men often don’t have to clear. A tough and demanding office environment may be seen as a virtue for one and a sign of disorder and lack of leadership acumen for another.
But for some of the people who know Harris best, it’s become an all-too-familiar pattern for a politician who has churned through several iterations of staff on her rise and took office with a team almost entirely new to her.
Just six months in, some of those aides in the Office of the Vice President said they are eyeing other employment opportunities. Others have left already. In recent days, two top advance staffers, Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, parted ways with Harris in what they and Harris officials said were long-planned departures, a point disputed by two other people familiar with the matter.