Katie Walsh was already a proven powerhouse in the GOP fundraising world when she broke records as the Republican National Committee's finance director during the 2014 election cycle. Walsh helped her boss, Reince Priebus, raise upward of $200 million—and she certainly knows the value of that contribution. "If you can get people to give money," she tells me when I visit her at RNC headquarters, "that's a much bigger get than getting people to vote for you."
(Chet Susslin)Earlier this year, Priebus tapped Walsh to be the RNC's chief of staff, assisting him with fundraising—and everything else—leading up to the 2016 presidential cycle. Former National Republican Senatorial Committee Finance Director Dorinda Moss says she was glad to hear of Walsh's appointment. "I think often times in politics, professionals get put in some kind of box, and they rarely ever get outside of their own box," Moss tells me. "I'm glad that Chairman Priebus and leadership at the RNC have recognized that Katie's not just a fundraiser. She understands the political process from top to bottom."
Walsh's roots in rainmaking do run deep, however. An only child from St. Louis, Missouri, Walsh was a business major at George Washington University, and she has been working in fundraising practically her entire professional life. Her first jobs were as a field representative for Missouri gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt, and as an administrative assistant with the Ashcroft Group, the consulting firm founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. From there, she went to work as an assistant to the national finance director at Friends of Fred Thompson and then as Midwest regional finance director for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. She joined the NRSC for the 2010 and 2012 cycles, working with Senate campaigns around the country to implement comprehensive fundraising and political strategies. Then in January 2013, she joined the RNC as deputy finance director, working her way up to finance director by June of that year.
While the simplest description of her new job is to "make sure that the chairman's vision is executed," there are two critical parts to the mission, Walsh says. The first is to effectively share the Republican Party's message. The second is to make sure voter files are well analyzed and that the party's get-out-the-vote operation is prepared.
It won't be an easy gig during the coming cycle. "It is always a challenge running the RNC during a contested presidential-nomination process," longtime Republican strategist Tom Rath tells me. "Each candidate sets up in essence their own RNC, and their fundraising efforts tend to disrupt those of the RNC. Additionally, you have to manage the convention planning at the same time. And you have to be fair to all the contenders."
Still, those who know the 30-year-old Walsh say she's well suited to succeed in the job. Rob Jesmer, who worked with Walsh for four years in his capacity as executive director of the NRSC, praises her smarts, her work ethic, and her ability to "keep her head down and not be distracted by the noise."
"She has a very calming voice and demeanor, which is welcome in the hothouse of politics," says Juleanna Glover, who worked with Walsh at the Ashcroft Group. That's certainly a valuable quality in a job like fundraising, but it should serve her well in all aspects of her new position. "At a very basic level, we're communicating with people," Walsh says. "You can't underestimate what personal contact does."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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