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NRCC to Get New Communications Director

The National Republican Congressional Committee is losing its communications director to the private sector.

Steve Schmidt, who served as the organization’s top flack during the 2002 cycle and for the first three months of this year, is leaving his post for a position as senior vice president of media relations at The Direct Impact Company, a grassroots-lobbying firm in Northern Virginia.

“This is a new challenge and a great opportunity,” Schmidt said.

Direct Impact is run by former NRCC Communications Director Craig Veith, who served in Schmidt’s position during the 1996 cycle. It is owned by public relations conglomerate Burson-Marsteller.

Schmidt will be replaced by Carl Forti, who served as deputy communications director in 2002.

“We are sorry to see Steve go,” said NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.). “He was an integral part of our electoral success in the last cycle and he will be missed.”

Reflecting on his tenure with the NRCC, Schmidt called it “without question the highlight of my professional experience.”

Former NRCC Executive Director Dan Mattoon said that Schmidt’s legacy at the committee will be his cultivation of the local press.

“Steve’s value at the NRCC in 2002 was that he not only did an excellent job of working with Washington press, but he and his staff did something that had not been done by the committee before in reaching out to the beyond-the-Beltway press.”

Terry Nelson, deputy chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, called Schmidt “a real pro.”

Prior to joining the committee, Schmidt worked as communications director for the House Commerce Committee; he played that same role in the short-lived 2000 presidential campaign of now-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and the 1998 Senate campaign of Matt Fong (R) in California.

The blow of Schmidt’s departure is softened by Forti’s decision to stay on, ensuring continuity from the successful team that helped Republicans pick up six seats in the 2002 cycle. Political Director Mike McElwain also remains from last cycle.

“The committee is fortunate to have a communications director with Carl’s level of knowledge and experience,” Reynolds said.

In addition to serving as Schmidt’s lieutenant, Forti oversaw the NRCC’s issue-advocacy program in the last election. In that role, he led the massive soft-money expenditures that saw the committee run 180 television spots in better than 50 races.

Forti served as director of political media operations for Wilson-Grand Communications, a GOP media consulting firm, from 1994 to 1999.

All six of the parties’ campaign committees are banned from raising or spending soft money following the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in the 107th Congress.

“It is a new world with campaign finance reform that presents challenges and opportunities,” Forti said. “It is an opportunity I am looking forward to.”

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