Sen. Kennedy's "alumni" hold power at the highest levels





Behind each of Edward M. Kennedy's legislative victories was a vast coterie of staffers who became Washington legend. They meticulously packed the senator's black briefcase each evening with tabbed, underlined and dog-eared briefing papers. They helped him hone his floor arguments late into the night over dinner and wine at his home. They took turns walking Splash and Sunny, cleaning up the mess that Kennedy's Portuguese water dogs left on the manicured Capitol grounds.

Suite 317, tucked along a marble-floored and white-columned corridor of the Russell Senate Office Building, was not only the liberal lion's den. It also was the finishing school for generations of Kennedy's cubs, hundreds of zealous proteges who came to work for the Massachusetts Democrat. For decades, scores of smart and ambitious Democrats flocked to Kennedy for jobs, and his staff of dozens, which swelled in size as he attained seniority, became unrivaled and widely praised across Capitol Hill.

Kennedy's alumni now hold power at the highest levels of the Obama administration and across the political, legal, media and health communities. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer was a chief counsel, as was Melody C. Barnes, President Obama's top domestic policy adviser. White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg were his foreign policy advisers, and Kenneth Feinberg, the superlawyer tapped by Obama to become compensation czar, is a former chief of staff.

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, worked as a volunteer on Kennedy's first Senate campaign.

"Teddy's staff was the farm system for the Democratic Party for a generation," Kerry said. "He was a magnet for brilliant, creative, progressive minds and hard-charging, hard-nosed operatives. But it was bigger than that. Teddy's staff had an unparalleled loyalty to him because he was so unfailingly loyal to them."


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