Bernie Sanders Hires Top Progressive Advocate, Faiz Shakir, as Campaign Manager
For his second run at the White House, the senator is leaning on one of the most seasoned progressives in the party.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has tapped Faiz Shakir to serve as his campaign manager for his second run at the White House, The Daily Beast has learned.
In hiring Shakir, Sanders brings into the fold one of the Democratic Party’s better-traveled operatives—an official with limited campaign experience but with ties to the party’s think tank infrastructure, its Hill operations, and the larger progressive universe.
Shakir joins the Sanders operation from the American Civil Liberties Union where he served as national political director since early 2017. Before joining the ACLU, he was a senior adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and before that he worked with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He first made a name for himself as an editor at the website ThinkProgress, the news arm associated with, though editorially independent of, the powerhouse Democratic think-tank Center for American Progress.
Shakir held a meeting with his team at the ACLU at noon on Tuesday to announce that he was leaving to join the Sanders campaign, The Daily Beast has learned. His departure is expected to be announced imminently by the civil-liberties giant. Shakir, 39, is almost certainly the first campaign manager of a major presidential campaign who identifies as a Muslim. His candidate, Sanders, is Jewish.
Neither Shakir nor the Sanders campaign returned a request for comment.
A team of Sanders advisers had been in the hunt for a new campaign manager since at least January, at which time the inner circle was dealing with the fallout of allegations of harassment and misconduct from former 2016 staffers. In part due to that fallout, the team was seeking more diversity among their top ranks. A number of names were floated as potential candidates, though Shakir was not among the individuals named by Sanders sources with whom The Daily Beast spoke.
Jeff Weaver, the 2016 campaign manager and a longtime personal friend and ally of Sanders, took on a different role for the senator's second run and is likely to become a senior adviser instead.
Tad Devine, a long-time Democratic operative who had worked on Sanders’ Senate campaigns and his 2016 presidential run, is not expected to join the 2020 effort, several sources told The Daily Beast, though his firm is working for Sanders and he himself could potentially help out later in the campaign. Devine, who had a falling out with several campaign aides in 2016 and who has been ensnared in legal drama related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of foreign influence peddling, did not return a request for comment.
Shakir spent several years during the Bush and Obama administrations at ThinkProgress, which quickly established itself as a digitally native information outlet for left-of-center Democrats. ThinkProgress primarily focused on challenging Republicans and conservatives but also took progressive stances on policy, particularly foreign policy and national security, that challenged the Democratic mainstream. There, Shakir worked closely with Matt Duss, who is now Sanders’ chief Senate foreign-policy adviser.
After a stint advising both Pelosi and Reid, Faiz did informal work for Sanders’ 2016 run. He moved to the ACLU’s Washington office after Trump won the general election. While some ACLU veterans and alums quietly expressed concern about such a prominent role being filled by someone so closely associated with the Democratic Party, the ACLU has become a bastion of legal resistance to the Trump administration on everything from the Muslim-focused travel ban to migrant family separation, and has seen its membership expand off its uncompromising opposition.
Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, praised Shakir as a “transformational leader” whose work helped quadruple ACLU membership since Trump took office.
“While the ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates for elected or appointed office, Faiz has picked his candidate for president," Romero said. "Senator Sanders is fortunate to have someone of Faiz Shakir’s talent, creativity and vision running his campaign for president.”
In 2016, Shakir was the subject of animus in a leaked email publicized by WikiLeaks in which John Podesta, then the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, chided Shakir for advising Sanders’ campaign.
DISCLOSURE: One of the reporters for this story, Ackerman, was briefly hired by Shakir to blog for ThinkProgress in 2008.