In the wake of last year’s election, American Crossroads is recalibrating its digital strategy.
“We’re trying to figure out what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” says Kelly Nallen, the conservative super PAC’s new director of digital. “We were very good at delivering messages to people where they were already—reading an online newspaper article, for example—but [less effective] at steering them to our website or to a Facebook page they weren’t familiar with.”
“We thought it’d be a good idea” to have a dedicated staff member, Nallen adds. “Someone who would start thinking about things a little earlier than the summer before an election.”
Nallen, 24, was raised in Westport, Conn., a prosperous suburb of New York City. Her father, John Nallen, is in finance at News Corp. “My parents are both pretty conservative, and that’s a little rare where I grew up,” she says. “My dad always encouraged me to read both The New York Times and the New York Post in the morning to make sure I was getting both sides of every story.”
After graduating from George Washington University in 2010, Nallen joined American Crossroads as a “catchall political assistant,” working on the group’s television programs, direct mail, phone calls, and “just helping make the trains run on time,” she says. “We’re very lean and mean.”
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Last month, Kris Balderston woke up for the first time in 18 years without a boss named Clinton.
Instead, the former aide to President Clinton and international collaborator with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has shifted into the private sector as general manager and senior partner in the Washington office of Fleishman-Hillard.
“They have a global platform for companies that want to do good and do well,” Balderston says in explaining his move from the State Department, where he was special representative for global partnerships under Clinton until her retirement Feb. 1.
Balderston, 57, brings much more than experience with the nation’s most celebrated Democratic couple to the strategic communications firm. Earlier in his career, he worked for ex-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine; and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
If there is a common theme throughout his 33 years in public service, it is collaboration, Balderston said. It’s an art he said he learned growing up in Little Falls, N.Y., a small manufacturing town on the Erie Canal where his father owned a bar that opened at 6 a.m. so that factory workers so inclined could have a shot and a beer before their shift. As a young boy, Balderston noticed that whenever anyone in town had a problem, others would offer whatever they had to help solve it, he said.
After graduating from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and earning a master’s degree in government at Georgetown University, Balderston went to work for the Council of State Community Affairs Agencies and then the National Governors Association, which led to a position running the state office in Washington for Dukakis from 1987 to 1991. Dukakis, of course, won the Democratic nomination for president in 1988, giving Balderston his first real taste of national politics.
After Dukakis stepped down as governor in 1991, Balderston became a senior policy adviser to Mitchell—“a very pragmatic guy who worked closely with the private sector,” Balderston said—and he also maintained ties to Bill Clinton, who had chaired the NGA when Balderston worked there. After Clinton became president in 1993, Balderston was tapped as deputy chief of staff to Labor Secretary Reich and served as his director of intergovernmental relations.
Two years later, Clinton made Balderston a special assistant at the White House and promoted him to deputy assistant to the president and deputy secretary of the Cabinet during his second term. His main task was finding ways for government agencies to collaborate on solving problems, he said.
Just as Bill Clinton left the White House, his wife arrived on Capitol Hill as a senator from New York. “Because I was from New York, there was some logic in going to work for her,” Balderston said. He became Sen. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and again focused on collaboration. “We brought upstate farmers to downstate markets,” he says. “We used our power to network and convene to fix things.”
Balderston went with Clinton to the State Department in 2009, first as managing director of the office of the secretary and then as special representative for global partnerships. In that capacity, he helped Clinton bring together governments, corporations, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations in partnerships tackling a variety of issues.
As an example, Balderston cited the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which has a goal of providing 100 million safe cooking devices to families around the world by 2020. Fumes from open stoves are the fourth-largest killer in the world, he said, and already more than $130 million has been raised for the effort to replace them.
Balderston said he plans to continue his collaborative work at Fleishman-Hillard, which has 80 offices around the globe. “There is a new convergence between NGOs and corporations,” he says.
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