Michele Davis, a former top aide to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, has told colleagues that she will join the Romney campaign to lead a vigorous effort to defend his career in the private sector, a source told BuzzFeed Wednesday.
Davis is currently a partner at the Brunswick Group in Washington, D.C., a corporate public relations and strategy firm, where she was reportedly the firm's lead — alongside then-Brunswick executive Hilary Rosen — in managing the oil company BP's public relations effort in the wake of a giant Gulf of Mexico oil spill. She served as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning at the Department of the Treasury from 2006 through the end of the Bush Administration, and is a veteran of the politics and P.R. of government and finance.
Davis brings experience of navigating the highest levels of government and media, and a reputation as one of the most capable hands at the intersection of finance, government, and the press. She was on Capitol Hill for the drafting of the Contract with America, and was a trusted adviser at Treasury: New York Magazine described her in 2008 as Paulson's "right-hand woman." "The Secretary doesn't do anything without talking to Michele," an anonymous insider was quoted as saying. She has also served through one of the most intense and difficult crisis situations of the era: She was at Paulson's right hand during the 2008 financial crisis.
She was portrayed by the actress Cynthia Nixon in the film Too Big to Fail.
But Davis will also bring some very high-profile baggage to Romney's campaign. She arrived at Treasury from Fannie Mae, the giant, government-backed firm that backs a large share of the nations mortgages. She was vice president for regulatory policy at Fannie Mae from 2002 to 2006, and is listed as a registered lobbyist for the troubled and controversial entity — which made a practice of keeping a bipartisan squad of Washington insiders on payroll — in 2004. (Indeed, Mitt Romney attacked rival Newt Gingrich for taking payments from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae's sibling entity.)
In her role, Davis defended Fannie Mae's independence, despite substantial tax advantages: She was quoted in Newsday that year saying the entity "does not receive a penny of funding from the government" or any subsidy.
She also served at Fannie Mae during a time in which it was found to have doctored its earnings statements to juice executives' bonuses, for which it paid a massive $400 million in penalties.
Davis's own politics appear to roughly reflect Romney's Establishment roots, if not always his outsider imagemaking. She help convince Congress and America of the necessity of the bank bailouts known as TARP, and has spoken warmly of the Obama Administration's embrace of that program.
Indeed, Davis said in a recent speech in Hong Kong, pointed out by a Democratic source that she was pleased that Tim Geithner had been chosen to replace her boss, and that she played an active role in the transition to the Obama Administration.
“I went over there every couple of days and was on the phone every couple of days with every office, with the new people just to try to help with that transition," she said.
A spokeswoman for Romney, Andrea Saul, didn't respond to an inquiry about Davis. Davis didn't respond to an email seeking comment on her move.
Cynthia Nixon as Michele Davis in "Too Big to Fail"
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
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