A recent report from Politico, has made some damning claims about the work environment in Vice President Kamala Harris’s office.
The publication interviewed 22 former and current staff members who complained about dysfunction in Harris’ office, reportedly at the fault of her chief of staff and political veteran Tina Flournoy, another Black woman.
The central complaint was that Flournoy has become overzealous in her attempt to protect Harris, often alienating not only staff members but donors who’ve raised millions on Harris’s behalf.
A source claimed that a friend of Harris personally reached out to Flournoy on behalf of one of the party’s top donors to arrange a meeting. They were ignored. The donor also contacted Harris’s office personally and didn’t hear back from anyone for weeks. When they did hear back, they were told that the Vice President was too busy to schedule time.
According to Politico, Harris’ friend said, “This is someone who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—millions even—for your boss and you’re just blowing them off? Next time Kamala wants [them] for something, it’s like, ‘Hey, I couldn’t even get a call back from your chief of staff.”
Additionally, it was reported that the staff has complained about Flournoy fostering an environment where “ideas are ignored, met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out.”
Furthermore, staffers claimed when something goes wrong, Flournoy refuses to take responsibility for “delicate issues” and instead blames staffers for any negative results that may occur as a consequence.
While many name Flournoy as the problem, there are others who believe Harris herself may be at the root of the issues.
One administration official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Politico, “It all starts at the top. People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment. It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like sh*t.”
The environment has become so unsuitable that after just six months on the job, many staffers have sought employment elsewhere.Recently, two top staffers Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi left Harris’ office. Officials say these departures were in the works. But others, who are familiar with the situation, claim this is not the case. .
A source claimed that DeFranceschi, the deputy director of advance, left because of a difference of opinion in how things should run. The source noted that DeFranceschi previously worked with the Obama administration.
The source said, “If you have an opinion about how things should run and it’s not listened to, that can be frustrating.”
DeFranceschi herself did not comment publicly on the matter.
For all the complaints, both Flournoy and Harris have defenders, including Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris.
Sanders scoffed at the claims saying she has an “open door policy” and if there were complaints, the anonymous critics should have come to her instead of running to the media. Sanders said, “People are cowards to do this this way.”
Furthermore, she championed Flournoy and the work she’s done for decades as a leader in the Democratic party.
“Black women like me would not have the opportunity to work in politics without Tina.”
As for the work and the environment itself, Sanders said, “We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club.’ We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”
In 2019, the Harvard Business Review reported that Black women are “often held to a much higher standard than their white and male peers and presumed to be less qualified despite their credentials, work product or business results.”
Leah Daughtry, another Democratic political operative, told Politico, “Look, [Tina’s] strong, she’s intelligent, she’s driven, and she expects strong, intelligent, driven people around her,” said Daughtry. “But some people may find strong, driven, smart people intimidating, but I think that’s more projection than reality because that’s just not Tina’s intent or style. And nothing in her experience would lead you to think that she’s an intimidating person.”