Incoming congressman Allen West taps outspoken Fla. radio host as chief of staff

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 4:26 PM

In the wake of last week's GOP victories in the midterm elections, some conservative firebrands who have leveled harsh criticism at Washington officialdom will soon themselves become Capitol insiders.

Congressman-elect Allen West (R-Fla.), who rode the tea party wave to unseat Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), has hired Joyce Kaufman, a local conservative talk radio commentator known for her provocative and sometimes incendiary statements, as his chief of staff.

In discussing the move on her show Tuesday afternoon, the husky-voiced radio commentator said she is excited to come to Washington and get a "bird's-eye view" of Congress. Kaufman dismissed the outgoing Democratic leadership as "garbage."

"Over these months I have been blessed to form very wonderful relationships with the West family," Kaufman said, adding that she had been a supporter of his campaign. "I looked at this family and [told] myself, how do you not fight and put them up on the pedestal when we've got this garbage up on the pedestal now, people like Nancy Pelosi?"

It's true that newly minted Washington chiefs of staff do not usually employ such rhetoric when talking about their new jobs. It's also true that few freshman classes in Congress contain as many rabble-rousers as the incoming Class of 2010.

West's campaign manager, Josh Grodin, defended Kaufman's outspoken style. "What's been working in Washington has not been working," he said. "Things need to be different."

Kaufman is an afternoon host on WFTL-850 AM in the South Florida market. The station on Tuesday announced on its Web site: "Joyce Kaufman becomes a Washington Insider!"

"WFTL is proud of their midday drive talk host as she goes into the belly of the beast," the announcement said, adding that Kaufman has been retained as the station's "Washington correspondent" and will occasionally "report to us live from D.C."

Kaufman will be a rookie in Washington. So West has hired Grodin as his deputy chief of staff. Grodin has nearly a decade of experience in navigating Capitol Hill, working for several House members and in the Bush White House's legislative affairs office.

"I've got ample experience and I've known the Hill well. Joyce and I look at each other as a team," Grodin said, adding that Kaufman knows the 22nd Congressional District well.

Kaufman, whose hiring was first reported by the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday, has a history of making controversial comments on her show.

Kaufman has been a prominent and controversial voice on the Florida political scene for decades. For example, according to the Miami New Times, she said about illegal immigrants on a 2007 show, "If you commit a crime while you're here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it."

She reportedly told listeners that she quit buying cable from Comcast after the company's answering system asked callers to "Press 1 for English." She also reportedly criticized Publix, a regional supermarket chain, for publishing 2010 calendars that marked Islamic New Year on Dec. 7 instead of Pearl Harbor Day.

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