Fundraiser Julianna Smoot new White House social secretary

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Veteran fundraiser Julianna Smoot was officially tapped as the next White House social secretary on Saturday, following the announcement that Desiree Rogers will step aside.

Smoot served as national finance director for the Obama campaign in 2008. Her success raising millions early in the Democratic primaries proved vital to Obama's victory, undercutting the perception that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was an inevitable juggernaut -- and making Smoot one of the most popular figures in the Chicago headquarters.

Smoot has spent the past year serving as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

Following Rogers's rocky tenure, which was marred by a Virginia couple's crashing of the first presidential state dinner, White House officials privately expressed relief that a new phase is beginning. In a statement announcing the appointment, Obama said Smoot "shares our commitment to creating an inclusive, dynamic and culturally vibrant White House," something that Rogers had been credited with helping create.

"Michelle and I are pleased to have her join our team," Obama said of Smoot.

"I am humbled and excited to take on the role of White House Social Secretary and support the Obama administration in a different capacity," Smoot said in the White House statement. "Over the last year, I have had the honor of building relationships in the international community through my work at USTR, and I am looking forward to implementing this experience at the White House."

A longtime adviser and fundraiser, Smoot has worked for five Democratic senators: Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and John Edwards (N.C.). She graduated from Smith College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in government. She is originally from North Carolina.

Rogers is expected to remain in the job for a short transition phase, although her departure had been widely expected after the fallout from the state dinner incident. Rogers had been criticized for paying too little attention to the specifics of party planning and for viewing herself as a participant, rather than as a member of the staff.

Former campaign aides said they expected Smoot to fit more easily into the role. In the appointment announcement, Susan Sher, the chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, said Smoot brings "extraordinary organization and people skills" to the job, as well as "sharp attention to detail."

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