Phillips Academy On the Campaign Trail: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Election 2004

Phillips Academy graduates are very involved in this year’s campaigns for President. The Phillipian contacted a few alumni active in the campaign processs. Here are their stories. Tish Ganier: Special Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer for the Bush Campaign Cutting out name tags for fundraising events, staking signs for her favorite candidates, and participating in political bus tours, Tish Ganier was drawn to politics from an early age. And her interest has paid off – she now serves as Special Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer for President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign. Ganier, who attended Andover during her Junior and Lower years (1992 through 1994) but left for family reasons, is learning first hand that a political campaign is about much more than just delivering speeches and running television adds; there is an equally important, though perhaps more mundane, financial aspect. “I work in the Treasury Department, which is responsible for budgeting and managing campaign resources as well as filing financial reports with the Federal Election Commission,” she said. Prior to joining the campaign, Ganier held a similar position in the Pentagon, working under then-Secretary of the Army for Financial Management Sandra Pack. When Ms. Pack was appointed Chief Financial Officer of the campaign, Tish Ganier made the transition along with her. Ganier said that she has met the president twice: once in Nashville, Tennessee, and once at the White House. These encounters deepened her resolve to help in his reelection campaign. “The President holds the highest respect for the Office of the President of the United States and takes his position seriously,” she commented. “You can sense this when you meet him. You can also sense a genuine concern for the security of this nation and that of the American people,” she continued. While Ganier only spent two years at Phillips Academy, the school left lasting impressions that influence her to this day. “My experience and Andover was rewarding and challenging. I met many people who I know will serve some day in the public sector.” David Castagnetti ’80: Director of Congressional Affairs for the Kerry Campaign After an 8:00 conference call with John Kerry campaign staff from across the nation, David Castagnetti ’80 steps out of his office and makes his way to Capitol Hill for a busy morning of meetings with congressional Democrats. Another day on the job has begun for the Phillips Academy graduate who serves as John Kerry’s Director of Congressional Affairs. As the liaison between Congress and the Democratic presidential campaign, Castagnetti is charged with keeping members of the United States House and Senate informed about the stances and activities of presidential hopeful John Kerry. “I keep the congress informed about what Kerry is doing on the campaign trail and the policies that the campaign takes. It’s my job to make sure that we’re working with members of congress to address concerns about the campaign,” he explained. Castagnetti, who just accepted his position last week, now spends each day giving speeches and updates to the Democratic Caucus, meeting with individual Senators and Congressmen, and closely following developments in the Kerry campaign. He has known Senator Kerry for nearly 20 years, and says that his relationship with the Senator was part of what drew him to the campaign. “He’s a great person and a great leader who has shown that he isn’t afraid to take on some hard issues,” he commented. “This is a great opportunity to work on the campaign of a person that I know and respect.” And while Castagnetti is new to this position, he is hardly a Washington outsider, boasting a long career on Capitol Hill. Since his graduation from Phillips Academy, he has served as the Executive Assistant for Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, the Chief of Staff for former Congressman Norm Mineta, and the Chief of Staff for Montana Senator Max Baucus. More recently, he was a partner at the lobbying firm Bergner, Bockorny, Castagnetti, and Hawkins. He joined the presidential campaign last week when Senator Kerry significantly expanded his staff with the appointment of a number of senior staff members. Addisu Demissie ’97: Political Department in the Kerry Campaign During his time at Phillips Academy, Addisu Demissie ’97 was barely involved in politics. But a visit by Senator John Kerry in 1996 piqued his interest and left lasting impressions. Today, Demissie works in the political department of Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign, holding the responsibility of contacting and organizing the delegates to the Democratic National Convention from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Colombia. This is only the latest in a string of positions he has held to promote John Kerry’s vie for the White House. He served in Iowa during the heated Democratic caucuses, relocated to Arizona for the primary, and worked on Kerry’s campaign in D.C. and Georgia. The long days in the competitive primaries proved to be Demissie’s most intense days in the campaign thus far. “It was tough at first, especially during the Iowa caucuses when the polls didn’t look like we were ahead… On the day of the caucuses all we could do was sit… we had done so much work up to that day, and it was completely out of our hands,” he explained. Now, with the successful primaries and caucuses behind him, he is busily preparing for the July 26th Democratic National Convention in Boston and the November 2nd presidential election, a day that Demissie predicts will be very similar to that anxious day of the Iowa caucuses. “My friend observed the other day – this campaign is like four years of college crammed into 9 months… so many ups and downs, trials and tribulations. I feel closer to the people on the campaign than to anybody, even though I’ve only been here for nine months,” he said.