Barack Obama’s new traveling press secretary comes to the campaign from a firm that worked for the main SuperPAC backing Obama, Priorities USA Action.
The move raises questions about coordination between the campaign and the SuperPAC, which are legally barred from discussing strategy and media buying.
But the aide, Jen Psaki, told BuzzFeed that she has been “walled off” from Priorities USA Action despite her firm, Global Strategies Group, doing work for the SuperPAC.
“Priorities USA is a polling and digital client of Global Strategy Group,” Psaki said in an email. “I have been walled off from their work since my first day at the firm, have never worked on the account and have no knowledge of their strategy or plans.”
Psaki, a 2008 campaign staffer and deputy communications director in the Obama White House, made an early decision to serve as a surrogate from the campaign and to avoid any contact with the SuperPAC, a Democrat familiar with the situation said, and has instead worked for private-sector clients of the New York-based polling and consulting firm, including the Export-Import Bank, Kroll Bond Rating Agency, GlobalFoundries, and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The firm boasts a long list of clients, including the investment bank Goldman Sachs, but a person familiar with the firm said Psaki had not worked for Goldman, which was no longer a client by the time she arrived.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Priorities USA Action has spent nearly $1.3 million with the Global Strategy Group.
Neither the Obama campaign nor Priorities USA responded to inquiries about Psaki’s move.
Priorities USA Action is the SuperPAC arm of the group generally known as Priorities USA, which also includes a 501(c)4 organization that is not required to disclose the identities of its donors.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post suggested there is a “cooling off period” for PAC staffers who move to a campaign. In fact, that restriction only applies to campaign staffers who move to an outside group, election lawyer Ken Gross of Skadden Arps said.