How to Succeed in Washington: It Helps When There Are Two of You

Both Wessels attended the University of Delaware. Both studied economics. Now, both work for pro-Hillary super PACs.

Dan and Evan Wessel
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
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Alex Seitz-Wald
April 7, 2014, 4:52 p.m.

Al­though they may have been drink­ing, the eager young staffers of two pro-Hil­lary Clin­ton su­per PACs were not see­ing double when they gathered at a Cap­it­ol Hill bar Thursday for happy hour. It was just the Wessel twins.

Of the many groups build­ing sup­port for a po­ten­tial 2016 Clin­ton pres­id­en­tial bid, Ready for Hil­lary and Cor­rect the Re­cord are the most act­ive and in­teg­rated, and each has its own Wessel. Dan star­ted in Decem­ber as a press as­sist­ant for Cor­rect the Re­cord, which de­fends Clin­ton from Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks, while his identic­al twin broth­er, Evan, star­ted work­ing on Ready for Hil­lary’s di­git­al foot­print in March.

Ready for Hil­lary and Cor­rect the Re­cord work closely to­geth­er, with a clear di­vi­sion of labor. They share sur­rog­ates, de­fer to each oth­er de­pend­ing on the is­sue when re­port­ers call, and meet reg­u­larly for stra­tegic and so­cial reas­ons. But per­haps noth­ing un­der­scores the kin­ship between the groups bet­ter than the Wessels.

“Ready for Hil­lary and Cor­rect the Re­cord are a fam­ily — fig­ur­at­ively — and in the case of Evan and Daniel, quite lit­er­ally,” says Seth Bring­man, Ready for Hil­lary’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or.

But the 24-year-old twins nev­er set out to do this. It just sort of happened.

Even though they grew up around of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton, the sons of a long­time aide to Dick Geph­ardt didn’t think much about polit­ics un­til col­lege. And their par­ents worked hard to pro­tect their in­di­vidu­al iden­tit­ies, keep­ing the twins away from the same classes and sports teams. But the sons had a way of grav­it­at­ing back to each oth­er.

“They tried their hard­est, but look where we are,” Dan says from Cor­rect the Re­cord’s of­fice near Uni­on Sta­tion. “We try to be as dif­fer­ent as we can, and we just so hap­pen to be in­volved in the same stuff. There was nev­er any dis­cus­sion at any point. We just find that we end up com­ing to the same con­clu­sions, mak­ing the same de­cisions.”

Dan and Evan both ended up at­tend­ing the Uni­versity of Delaware, both stud­ied eco­nom­ics, and both vo­lun­teered for the state’s Demo­crat­ic Party in 2010, where they both got hooked on polit­ics.

When they first tried to find jobs in Wash­ing­ton, the twins dis­covered they had ap­plied for work in the same of­fices, po­ten­tially put­ting em­ploy­ers in the awk­ward situ­ation of hir­ing one broth­er and not the oth­er. Lines needed to be drawn. Dan got the House, Evan got the Sen­ate, and they sent their résumés only to their as­signed side of the Cap­it­ol.

“When we were both on the Hill at the same time, I found I would have to be friendly with every­body be­cause we were both meet­ing with people and I had no idea who he had spoken with,” Dan re­calls. That in­cluded Demo­crat­ic Sen. Sher­rod Brown of Ohio, who thought Dan was Evan, an in­tern in his of­fice at the time. “That ac­tu­ally happened twice. And I just had this whole con­ver­sa­tion with him, him think­ing I was his broth­er. Which was cool for me,” Dan says.

In Decem­ber, Dan star­ted at Cor­rect the Re­cord, and then Evan joined Ready for Hil­lary in March.

Sit­ting in the oth­er pro-Hil­lary su­per PAC’s of­fices, which over­look the Po­tom­ac in Rosslyn, Va., Evan says the moves were “not co­ordin­ated at all.” (Dan ad­mits he had “some hes­it­a­tion” at first.)

“It ac­tu­ally took a while for any­one to real­ize it,” Evan says. “People came up to me from Cor­rect the Re­cord and thought I was him.” Now, they serve as bridge between the or­gan­iz­a­tions for their more ju­ni­or col­leagues, who aren’t in reg­u­lar stra­tegic meet­ings. Cowork­ers have joked about start­ing a new group: Wessels for Hil­lary.

And no, each doesn’t try to do the oth­er’s job. “I would have no idea what to do,” Evan in­sists.

In spite of all the con­fu­sion, the un­in­ten­tion­al com­edy, and po­ten­tial ex­ist­en­tial land mines, both Wessels see each oth­er as much more of an as­set than a li­ab­il­ity.

“When you have twins who are so sim­il­ar, you have sim­il­ar ex­per­i­ence, sim­il­ar in­terests, sim­il­ar cap­ab­il­it­ies, re­l­at­ively sim­il­ar skills — so if we end up com­pet­ing against each oth­er, it just hurts both of us,” Evan says.

“I think we both look at the Castros and the Schatzes and oth­er twins out there and sort of strive to do that and use that kind of as a guide. It’s not one of us or the oth­er. It’s both of us to­geth­er. We can kind of use each oth­er to ad­vance and achieve our goals,” Evan says, re­fer­ring to Rep. Joa­quin Castro and his broth­er, San Ant­o­nio May­or Ju­li­an Castro, as well as Sen. Bri­an Schatz of Hawaii, who has a twin who works in Hawaii’s state gov­ern­ment.

Still, there are lim­its, and the good-fences rule seems to ap­ply to twins as much as it does to neigh­bors. While they’re work­ing for the same cause, the Ready for Hil­lary and Cor­rect the Re­cord of­fices are sep­ar­ated by a river and about two and half miles of crawl­ing down­town Wash­ing­ton traffic.

As Evan put it, “I would prob­ably nev­er work in the same of­fice as him.”

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