White House summer interns: It never hurts to have connections

July 12, 2013
This Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 photo shows the White House in Washington, as President Barack Obama campaigns out of town. Locked in a tight race for re-election, Obama spends much time on the road pitching for votes in battleground states. Even the noisy and disruptive construction on the North Lawn that caused headaches for months has wrapped up. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This week, the White House released a list of the 2013 summer interns. The list of 147 college and graduate students is full of bright young things — dozens from Ivy League schools — and (surprise, surprise) several with connections to the administration.

Former U.S. auto task force head Steven Rattner is interviewed before his address to an auto conference in Detroit, Monday, May 10, 2010. Rattner says General Motors and Chrysler have performed better than he expected they would a year ago. Both GM and Chrysler received billions in federal aid and went through bankruptcy protection last year. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Steven Rattner (AP)

There’s Harry Summers, a student at Bowdoin College and son of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Michael Klain from Harvard, the son of Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to Al Gore and Joe Biden. Adam Baer, at student at Dartmouth and son of former Clinton senior adviser Don Baer. James “Izzy” Rattner of Brown University, the youngest son of New York financier and major Democratic fundraiser Steve Rattner. And Madeline Broas, another Dartmouth student and daughter of D.C. lawyer and Democratic donor Timothy Broas.

But it’s not all about politics: Consider Grant Tanenbaum, a student at Wesleyan University and grandson of Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner.

LONDON - MARCH 25: Lawrence H. 'Larry' Summers, former U.S. Treasury speaks during a financial and economic event at the London School of Economics (LSE) on March 25, 2013 in London, England. The European Union's decision to recapitalize Cypriot banks by inflicting losses on depositors and senior bondholders is triggering investor concern about the knock-on effects for bank funding across the region. (Photo by Jason Alden - WPA Pool via Getty Images)
Larry Summers (WPA)

Like most Washington internships, the process is highly competitive: Applicants need to submit a resume, two essays and two letters of recommendation for the full-time, unpaid jobs in the West and East wings. After months of deliberation, interns are selected based on their public service, community leadership and “commitment to the mission of the Obama Administration,” according to the White House web site.

It’s fair to assume these future leaders are already accomplished and savvy about high-powered networking, whether learned at the family dinner table or in the trenches of student government. Plenty of the names on the list have no obvious link to the White House but do have a dazzling resume, such as Rhodes Scholar Rhiana Gunn-Wright who grew up in inner-city Chicago or Haywood Perry from Penn, who served on the Prince George’s County Board of Education as a teenager.

Ron Klain, the chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, is leaving the White House to become president of Case Holdings, the holding company for the business and philanthropic interests of former AOL chairman Steve Case. Klain also served as chief of staff Al Gore and was portrayed by Kevin Spacey in the HBO film "Recount," about the 2000 presidential election.
Ron Klain (Getty Images)

So it’s unclear how far a good word from a VIP parent goes. “What I liked most about this is that Adam pursued it himself,” said Don Baer, who told us he deliberately stayed out of the process.

Still, knowing a power broker or two can’t hurt. We asked the White House if any intern slots are reserved for “legacies” — kids of former administration officials. They didn’t get back to us for comment.

See also: Full list of White House summer interns for 2013

 

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