Patrick Gaspard

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Patrick Gaspard

Patrick Gaspard is a Brooklyn-based Democratic operative who served as Vice President and Political Director of Service Employees International Union until he became, in June 2009, the White House director of the Office of Political Affairs. In Barack Obama's second term, Patrick Gaspard was given the role of U.S. Ambassador to South Africa.

As of October 14 2018, Patrick Gaspard serves as Vice President for George Soros' Open Society Foundations. [1]


Taken Verbatim from Embassy of the Republic of Haiti:[2]

"Patrick Gaspard was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo in 1967 to Haitian parents who had heeded the call of Patrice Lumumba for francophone academics of African descent to settle in newly independent African states. Gaspard grew up in New York City and had a long career in electoral and campaign politics in the city.
"After leaving Columbia University to join Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign, Gaspard worked on David Dinkins’ successful bid to become the first African American mayor of New York City. A constant in New York political organizing thereafter, Gaspard also served as Deputy Political Director for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2003, before returning to labor organizing where he eventually rose to Vice President and Political Director of Service Employees International Union. In 2008, Gaspard joined Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, serving as National Political Director. Following the inauguration of President Obama, Gaspard transitioned to direct the White House Office of Political Affairs from 2009 to 2011. Thereafter, he served as Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee from 2011 to 2013, overseeing the party committee’s efforts to re-elect President Obama. Gaspard was subsequently appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, and served in this capacity from 2013 to 2016.

Political Director for Obama

Patrick Gaspard’s official responsibility was to provide the president with an "accurate assessment of the political dynamics affecting the work of his administration"- to work with powerbrokers around the country to help push the president’s agenda. Representative Gregory Meeks commented about him on June 23, 2009:

"He’s a low key, behind-the-scenes, no-fingerprints kind of guy. I need something, I call Patrick. And if he calls, it’s a big deal. He’s close to the president."[3]

A former employer, Margarita Lopez also commented on Gaspard:

"Don’t be mistaken about him being a gentleman - don’t even go there. When a situation got to a point that there was no resolution I would reach Patrick and say, ‘Go for it, and bring me no hostages, this battle is going to be won with no hostages.’ And I can tell you Patrick delivered every single time."[3]

Early life

Patrick Gaspard was born in Kinshasa, Zaire, circa 1968, after his father, a political opponent of the Duvalier regime in Haiti, fled there.

Patrick Gaspard’s father moved with his wife from their native Haiti to post-liberation Zaire, when its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, appealed to French-speaking academics of African descent to teach there.

Three years after Mr. Gaspard’s birth, the family moved to the Upper West Side, where they lived until Mr. Gaspard turned 11.

Soon the Gaspards, including his brother Michael Gaspard, who currently works as a consultant for the Advance Group, moved closer to Shea Stadium, to St. Albans in Southeast Queens, from which Mr. Gaspard commuted to high school at Brooklyn Tech[4].


Gaspard attended the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University.

Radical hero

Patrick Gaspard writes poetry and considers as a personal hero Aime Cesaire, the pioneering black-pride poet and politician who taught Marxist Frantz Fanon[5].


Patrick Gaspard got his start in politics organizing demonstrations in New York City for social justice in Haiti in the mid-1980s.[6]

Political apprenticeship


Gaspard got his first taste of campaign work doing advance for the 1988 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, during which time his energy and affinity with local political organizations caught the notice of Harlem-based consultant Bill Lynch, whose office floor Gaspard got in the habit of crashing on. In Lynch's office Gaspard began a friendship with now New York Councilman Bill DeBlasio[7].

Bill Lynch later brought Patrick Gaspard on to David Dinkins’ first mayoral race, as an intern in Dinkins' and then to City Hall, when Dinkins, a member of Democratic Socialists of America, won the New York Mayoralty.

Patrick Gaspard left the Dinkins administration to do consulting for unions and political campaigns.

In 1997, outgoing Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger, also a member of Democratic Socialists of America, enlisted Gaspard for her doomed campaign Mayoral against Rudy Giuliani.

Now, as the head of the American Jewish World Service charity, she still seeks Gaspard's help, recently meeting with him in the White House to discuss Darfur aide programs and policy.[8]

Working for Margarita Lopez

After the Messinger campaign Gaspard became chief of staff to Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a radical feminist from the Lower East Side who was one of Mayor Giuliani's most vocal critics.

She once declared on the floor of the City Council that Mr. Gaspard was “an honorary lesbian,” and recalled that, at times, he outdid her.[9]

Working Families Party

“Here’s what I’d say is the bottom line about the Working Families Party,” Patrick Gaspard, the former White House director of political affairs who now serves as the Ambassador to South Africa... As a young New York activist, Gaspard was a founding board member of the WFP. “They have values, they have high capacity for a relatively small organization, and unlike many on the left, they have a habit of winning.” [10]

Local 1199

In 1999, Ms. Lopez loaned Gaspard out to help Local 1199 SEIU, a Marxist dominated labor union, to organize a march in protest of the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant. Gaspard impressed them.

Gaspard was reportedly a key organizer of the civil disorder that followed Diallo's death[11].

The union was one of the central organizers of the civil disobedience that followed, and 1199 President Dennis Rivera and then-Political Director Bill Lynch asked Gaspard to coordinate those efforts.

“He knows what buttons to push and in what order,” said Jennifer Cunningham, who was then the union’s political director, and who went on to work closely with Mr. Gaspard for the next eight years[12].

Dennis Rivera, president of Local 1199, recruited Gaspard[13], and he eventually became the union's executive vice president.

Working for Dean and Soros

In 2003, Gaspard was granted leave from Local 1199 to work as the deputy national field director for the presidential campaign of Howard Dean .After Dean was knocked out of the race, Gaspard became national field director for George Soros’ political action group America Coming Together.

In 2005, Gaspard again took leave from Local 1199 to work for underdog Democrat, Freddy Ferrer, in a landslide loss to Michael Bloomberg.

A year later, when 1199 played a major role in backing Andrew Cuomo, who had challenged Mr. McCall in the 2002 Democratic primary, in his run for Attorney general, Gaspard worked on races in Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, DC.[14]

Helping Yvette Clarke

In 2006 Gaspard worked to help Yvette Clarke's election to Congresss.

According Josh Isay, a consultant to Mr. Bloomberg who worked with Gaspard on that race

“Without Patrick Gaspard, Yvette Clarke would not be in Congress[15].”

Yvette Clarke won a four-way primary in 2006 for a House seat in Brooklyn vacated by Democratic Socialists of America member Major Owens.

Working with Al Sharpton

In December 2006, Al Sharpton asked Patrick Gaspard to help him assemble an emergency meeting of about 300 activists, black nationalists, union and political leaders to decide on an appropriate response to the police shooting death of Sean Bell.

At one point, things got ugly¸ with one activist criticizing the attendance of the teacher’s union president Randi Weingarten at the meeting.

“One guy who nobody knew got up and said, ‘I don’t know why we got the head of the teachers union here, these white teachers are destroying our community,’ and went off on her,” recalled Mr. Sharpton. “And Patrick ran over to me and said, ‘I think you should call for unity and talk about how important it is that whites, blacks, everybody march together. I could say it, but I think it is better for your to say if, for the crowd, and for your own beliefs.
“And I got up and said it,” Mr. Sharpton continued. “And as I said it, he was whispering something in Randi’s ear, and Randi got up and started talking about how committed she was and she didn’t care who didn’t appreciate her working with Reverend Sharpton. And it occurred to me that Patrick was going around the room telling everybody what to say.[16]

New Party/Working Families Party

In 1995 Patrick Gaspard was an organizer for the New Jersey chapter of the New Party.[17]

By 2001 Gaspard was a leading activist in the New Party offshoot, the New York Working Families Party

Gaspard and Bertha Lewis of ACORN, wrote a letter to the July 2, 2001 issue of The Nation describing their extensive joint involvement in Working Families Party activities. The letter was signed: "Bertha Lewis, ACORN, WFP; Patrick Gaspard, SEIU State Council, WFP."

Center for Working Families

In 2008 Patrick Gaspard, Executive Vice President SEIU Local 1199 served on the advisory board of Center for Working Families.[18]

Obama campaign

Citing his responsibilities at 1199, Gaspard had turned down several overtures to join the Obama campaign before becoming political director in June 2008[19].

While not joining the campaign Gaspard pushed Obama’s case behind the scenes within the union, playing a critical role in blocking an endorsement of John Edwards before the Iowa caucus. That allowed SEIU to endorse Obama and when they did, Gaspard openly expressed his support, 'heading to Wisconsin and eventually leading the union’s volunteer efforts in primary states like Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania."

Gaspard eventually joined the campaign as political director working out of a small office in Chicago with Jen O’Malley and Jon Carson, poring over maps and managing activity in the states[20].

White House Job

In November 2008, Patrick Gaspard, became the White House political director for President-elect Barack Obama.

Gaspard served as national political director for much of Obama's general election campaign and was named deputy director of personnel for the transition effort. Prior to his work with Obama, Gaspard was the lead political operative for the 1199 branch of the Service Employees International Union, a huge an "hugely influential union representing health care workers in New York."[21]

Preparing for 2012

Democratic national national committee Chair Tim Kaine wrote on January 20, 2010, "President Obama will be putting together a re-election team and his 2012 campaign will be based in Chicago starting in March or April of this year.

David Axelrod and Jim Messina will be leaving the White House to begin work on the re-election campaign once it is formed. David Plouffe, who managed the President's 2008 campaign, is now working at the White House as Senior Advisor to the President.

Of more direct impact on the DNC's day-to-day operations will be the transition of our Executive Director, Jen O'Malley Dillon, who will be leaving us sometime after our February DNC meeting and will become a Deputy Campaign manager when the re-election campaign is formed. Jen will be working directly with Jim Messina and will have as part of her portfolio being a liaison from the re-election campaign to the DNC.

Jen has had a very important role here at the DNC and I wanted to make sure that we continue to have strong leadership in our Executive Director position. Therefore, I am pleased to let you know that Patrick Gaspard will be coming to us from the White House to join us as our new DNC Executive Director upon Jen's departure.

I would like to share with you why I'm so excited that Patrick will be joining us at the DNC.

Most importantly, Patrick Gaspard is a great person. He is a key Assistant to President Obama, having served as the Political Director of the White House for the last two years and before that as Political Director to President Obama's campaign. He understands the importance of grassroots politics and team building. He is someone with whom I have worked closely and I look forward to working with him even more closely at the DNC. Many of you already know Patrick and I'm excited that he will be bringing his leadership skills to his new role as our Executive Director.[22]


  1. Under attack, billionaire George Soros plans to redouble his efforts October 14 2018
  2. October 14 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 The New York Observer: Patrick Gaspard Writes Poems, Collects Comics, Kills for Obama, June 23, 2009
  5. Patrick Gaspard Writes Poems, Collects Comics, Kills for Obama accessed Oct 14 2018
  10. The Atlantic, The Pugnacious, Relentless Progressive Party That Wants to Remake America Molly Ball Jan 7, 2016
  14. The New York Observer: Patrick Gaspard Writes Poems, Collects Comics, Kills for Obama, June 23, 2009 (accessed on Sept. 2, 1010)
  17. "Jersey Man Hopes to Create Third Political Party," National Public Radio, "Morning Edition, " September 28, 1995
  21. Washington Post, Patrick Gaspard to be Obama's Political Director, By Chris Cillizza, November 21, 2008
  22. Washington Post Jan 20, 2011