Ken Salazar speaks in Nevada in 2009.

Ken Salazar speaks in Nevada in 2009. Andy Pernick/Bureau of Reclamation file photo

Meet the Head of Hillary Clinton's Transition Team

Ken Salazar earns praise from former colleagues, but some are wary of his influence.

Ken Salaz­ar, hardly a house­hold name, will soon be mak­ing some big de­cisions—and fa­cing fresh scru­tiny with­in his own party.

If Hil­lary Clin­ton wins as ex­pec­ted, the former sen­at­or from Col­or­ado and In­teri­or sec­ret­ary run­ning her trans­ition team will be key to en­sur­ing that the policy she’s run on can be trans­formed in­to real­ity.

A big part of his mis­sion: Be­gin de­cid­ing on people to fill the Cab­in­et and roughly 4,000 pres­id­en­tially ap­poin­ted po­s­i­tions, a se­cret­ive pro­cess that will ac­cel­er­ate greatly after the elec­tion.

The 61-year-old is run­ning the closed-door pro­cess while fa­cing skep­ti­cism from act­iv­ists who fear that he lacks pro­gress­ive bona fides.

But people close to Salaz­ar say the former sen­at­or will un­der­take plan­ning in a way that breathes life in­to Clin­ton’s agenda, not his own policy opin­ions.

“I think maybe a bit too much is made of any par­tic­u­lar po­s­i­tion he may have taken in the past,” said Jeff Lane, Salaz­ar’s former Sen­ate chief of staff. “His role is re­l­at­ively neut­ral in this pro­cess, and he will be go­ing to pains to find the right people to im­ple­ment her agenda, her policies.”

In­deed, while the bizarre 2016 race has not ex­actly been a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum on gran­u­lar policy is­sues, Clin­ton’s cam­paign has cre­ated a series of de­tailed po­s­i­tions.

“I don’t think there is any real mys­tery about how she wants to move for­ward. I think his job is to try and build a team to move that agenda for­ward,” said Lane, who served as the En­ergy De­part­ment’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for con­gres­sion­al and in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al af­fairs from 2010 to 2013. He’s now coun­sel with the firm Dentons.

Lane said Salaz­ar’s man­age­ment style is to so­li­cit in­put from a range of people, rather than rely ex­clus­ively on his top depu­ties.

“He wasn’t the type of sen­at­or who was back in his of­fice isol­ated from the staff and just talk­ing to his chief of staff. There are some like that, but that was not his style,” Lane said.

Adds a former Sen­ate aide: “He likes hav­ing a team. He likes hav­ing dif­fer­ent people around him so that he can hear dif­fer­ent pieces of in­form­a­tion and view­points.”

“He loved to bring the staff to­geth­er, the whole staff, to lay out a prob­lem and ask people what they thought,” the former Sen­ate aide said.

He will face close scru­tiny.

Pro­gress­ives look at Salaz­ar’s rather mod­er­ate Sen­ate re­cord, past sup­port for oil-and-gas de­vel­op­ment via hy­draul­ic frac­tur­ing, and en­dorse­ment of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, not to men­tion his post-In­teri­or role as a part­ner at Wilmer­Hale, a ma­jor law and lob­by­ing firm that gets hired by huge com­pan­ies and ma­jor busi­ness groups.

“He is clearly not who we would have se­lec­ted for that role,” said Josh Nel­son, the deputy polit­ic­al dir­ect­or at the act­iv­ist group Credo Ac­tion.

“We are watch­ing the trans­ition pro­cess closely, and we are weigh­ing in both be­hind the scenes now and we will be weigh­ing in pub­licly when the time is right,” Nel­son said.

Salaz­ar is lead­ing the trans­ition after a cam­paign that has seen Clin­ton—fa­cing a tough primary race with Bernie Sanders—move to the left by op­pos­ing TPP and the Key­stone pipeline (which Salaz­ar has backed), vow­ing tough con­trols on Wall Street, and more.

He’s op­er­at­ing as act­iv­ists are seek­ing to ex­ert pres­sure un­der the ral­ly­ing cry, made more prom­in­ent by Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren in her ad­vocacy for tough fin­an­cial reg­u­la­tions, that “per­son­nel is policy,” which means they want to en­sure that people with pro­gress­ive bona fides are put in charge of de­cision-mak­ing in the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

One former seni­or aide at the In­teri­or De­part­ment said Salaz­ar’s ex­per­i­ence run­ning the sprawl­ing agency from 2009 to 2013 was good pre­par­a­tion for over­see­ing the mam­moth task of ush­er­ing in a new pres­id­ency.

“He is very hands-on,” the aide said, adding that Salaz­ar “moves quickly through is­sues and has ex­actly the kind of man­age­ment skills that fit a trans­ition very well.

“In a trans­ition ef­fort, you are deal­ing with an enorm­ous, broad as­sort­ment of is­sues and con­stitu­en­cies and cross­cur­rents of sub­stant­ive and polit­ic­al con­sid­er­a­tions, and the De­part­ment of the In­teri­or is all about that, with is­sues ran­ging from wa­ter policy to In­di­an policy to wild­life to en­dangered spe­cies to wild­fires,” the former aide said.

At In­teri­or, Salaz­ar’s ten­ure in­cluded work to boost re­new­able-en­ergy de­vel­op­ment on fed­er­al lands, toughen reg­u­la­tion of off­shore drilling, and ini­ti­ate rules to in­crease over­sight of frack­ing on fed­er­al lands, which were com­pleted un­der his suc­cessor, Sally Jew­ell.

Salaz­ar’s Sen­ate ca­reer was less than a full term, but he had an im­pact, said former Sen. Jeff Binga­man of New Mex­ico, who was the En­ergy Com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat when a sweep­ing en­ergy law passed in 2005 and chair­man when an­oth­er huge en­ergy bill was en­acted in 2007.

“In the Sen­ate, he was very well liked and very ef­fect­ive,” Binga­man said, call­ing Salaz­ar a “ma­jor con­trib­ut­or” to both bills.

Former Sen. Mary Landrieu, a con­ser­vat­ive Louisi­ana Demo­crat who was de­feated in 2014, was Salaz­ar’s en­ergy com­mit­tee col­league, but later they but­ted heads re­peatedly over off­shore-drilling re­stric­tions he im­posed after the 2010 BP oil spill.

Landrieu, des­pite past dis­agree­ments, has kind words for Salaz­ar and the Clin­ton cam­paign’s de­cision to tap him to lead the trans­ition pro­cess.

“He is a very thought­ful, very in­tel­li­gent, open-minded kind of guy, and that is ex­actly the kind of guy we want run­ning a trans­ition,” said Landrieu, now a lob­by­ist and seni­or policy ad­viser with Van Ness Feld­man.

But act­iv­ists are in­creas­ingly con­cerned with keep­ing pres­sure on the Clin­ton team to gov­ern in the pro­gress­ive vein that she cam­paigned on.

Already this month, a num­ber of en­vir­on­ment­al groups have urged Clin­ton not to se­lect an­oth­er Col­or­adoan, Gov. John Hick­en­loop­er, to be­come In­teri­or sec­ret­ary, ar­guing that he’s too friendly to­ward frack­ing and fossil fuels.

To be sure, there’s hardly a re­volt against Salaz­ar on the Left. As a Politico story notes, of­fi­cials with some ma­jor en­vir­on­ment­al groups have ex­pressed com­fort with him.

Non­ethe­less, some act­iv­ists are on alert as Salaz­ar helps ush­er in a new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“His ap­point­ment as head of the trans­ition team has made some people con­cerned about how com­mit­ted a po­ten­tial Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing to be to ap­point­ing lead­ers who stand ready to con­front cor­por­ate power,” said Neil Sroka of the group Demo­cracy for Amer­ica.

The Clin­ton cam­paign an­nounced Salaz­ar’s ap­point­ment in Au­gust, along with names of trans­ition-team co­chairs and sev­er­al top staff mem­bers. The co­chairs are former Michigan Gov. Jen­nifer Gran­holm; Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress Pres­id­ent Neera Tanden; former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Tom Doni­lon; and Mag­gie Wil­li­ams, who dir­ects Har­vard Uni­versity’s In­sti­tute of Polit­ics.

Salaz­ar was already a known quant­ity in the Clin­ton or­bit, giv­en his time in the Sen­ate with Clin­ton and oth­er ties.

And the WikiLeaks dump of emails hacked from Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta re­veals Salaz­ar’s com­mu­nic­a­tions with the cam­paign as he helped their ef­forts in Col­or­ado. At one point, Podesta ex­pressed hope that he could “lean on [Salaz­ar] for ad­vice,” and both men will surely face more scru­tiny as the real­ity of a Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion grows.

“I am sure every­one has got crit­ics,” Landrieu said, “but he has got few­er than most, and he is just a known and re­spec­ted quant­ity.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.