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Reid’s New Chief of Staff Takes Atypical Path to Top

In the year of the political outsider, it may be somewhat fitting that a former telecommunications executive with little Congressional experience has been hired to run Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership office.

Reid tapped David Krone to serve as his chief of staff shortly after the Nov. 2 elections. Krone’s Capitol Hill experience has been brief — he’s worked as Reid’s deputy chief of staff for just two years. The rest of Krone’s résumé includes stints at Comcast; the National Cable & Telecommunications Association; the YES Network; and GlobalCenter Inc., the Internet services subsidiary of Global Crossing Ltd. He also served as executive vice president of government relations at AT&T Broadband and TCI.

But it is exactly Krone’s nontraditional background that makes him the right fit to run Senate Democratic operations over the next two years, sources say. Krone is credited with helping Reid win a tough battle for a fifth term this year.

“His political skills are every bit as sharp and keen as his business skills, and that’s a great combination for Sen. Reid,” said Susan McCue, Reid’s former chief of staff. McCue worked as Reid’s top aide for seven years, departing in 2007, and is still close to the Majority Leader.

Republicans made huge gains on Nov. 2, retaking the House and strengthening their minority in the Senate. The Republicans won a total of seven Senate seats, shrinking Reid’s majority to 53–47. And, Senate Democrats could be in jeopardy again in 2012, with their majority itself potentially in peril.

Of the 33 Senate seats that are up next cycle, 23 are in the hands of Democrats, including a group of incumbents elected in the Democratic wave of 2006 who are running in Republican-leaning states. Krone, well-liked and respected on both sides of the aisle, is viewed as the ideal individual to run Reid’s leadership operation given this post-midterm election political environment.

Gary Myrick, Krone’s predecessor as chief of staff, was recently appointed secretary of the majority for the Democratic caucus. Myrick is described as the consummate Senate insider who is far more adept at rules and procedures than politics. Krone, on the other hand, is viewed as just the opposite.

“Gary was born and raised to do the floor. David has a much better outward facing view of the world,” said Michael Meehan, president of the Democratic firm Blue Line Strategic Communications and former Senate aide. “David is a great asset because he has spent the last two years as a trusted, loyal aide to the Leader but has also learned how the business world really works. That’s enormously useful in the [chief of staff] job.”

Republicans are complimentary of Krone, too.

One GOP lobbyist with ties to both Democrats and Republicans said that Reid’s new chief of staff is accessible and is one of the few senior Democratic operatives on Capitol Hill who has solid relationships with Republicans, including those who work on K Street.

While conceding that Krone will always protect Reid’s interests, this lobbyist credited Krone for being a pragmatist. He said Krone has a command of both politics and policy, saying he doesn’t wear “partisan blinders” and is one of the few Congressional aides who understand how the world works outside Washington, D.C.
“He is smart, strategic and calculating,” this Republican lobbyist said. “If I could pick one guy to add to my lobbying shop, regardless of cost, it would be Krone.”

Reid’s office declined to comment for this story or make Krone available for an interview. But in a press release last week announcing Krone’s promotion, Reid said: “David’s experience in the private sector and commitment to public service will serve him well in this role as Chief of Staff. I am confident that he will be a tremendous leader for my office and a great resource for our caucus.”

Krone took an atypical path to Capitol Hill.

Congressional aides often begin their career on the Hill before transitioning to the private sector. In fact, Krone’s road mirrors that of several wealthy Senators. He earned millions of dollars serving in several prominent executive positions at major telecommunications companies and then went to work in the Senate. Political operatives and lobbyists familiar with Krone say he is wealthy enough that he doesn’t have to work.

And according to a Nov. 17 article published on the Center for Public Integrity’s website, Krone is the “single most generous individual career donor” to Reid’s campaign and leadership political action committees, with at least $35,000 in contributions.

Krone, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University, has long been active in Democratic politics, both as a major campaign donor and in other capacities. It was in that capacity that he and Reid developed a mutual friendship and trust that extended as well to key members of the Majority Leader’s staff. Krone’s only agenda has been to help Reid, sources say.

“He’s not an egomaniac,” said one downtown-based media association operative who knows Krone. “He is well regarded by both parties, even-keeled, kind of low key; not flashy.”

“In many ways, David is a reflection of Sen. Reid,” McCue added. “He’ll be a strong, thoughtful, fair manager, will bring the team together and move everyone forward. He’s able to integrate a lot of different departments and make sure everyone is on the same page.”

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