WFC Stock – Doug Emhoff’s ex is way cooler than he is
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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Theodoric Meyer, Eugene Daniels, Allie Bice and Daniel Payne
KERSTIN EMHOFF is, put simply, cool.
The Hollywood producer and CEO of the production company Prettybird has worked on projects ranging from the 1994 music video for “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails to BEYONCÉ’s 2016 “Formation” to a still-undisclosed scripted project for Apple.
In many parts of the country, however, she’s mainly known by one title, if she’s known at all: Doug’s ex.
“I went from building a company from scratch and just trying to get attention to my company, my partners, my directors, the work that we’re doing non-stop to you Google me and it’s like crazy websites of ‘5 things you don’t know about DOUG EMHOFF’s ex-wife’ or ‘KAMALA HARRIS‘s Husband’s ex-wife,’” she said with a laugh in a Zoom interview last Friday. “I don’t want to just be the famous ex-wife. I am accomplished in my own right.”
Wearing a “California Love” grey Lingua Franca sweater at her home in Los Angeles, the 54-year-old producer, mom, and, yes, ex-wife of the second gentleman talked about her career, her relationship with the vice president, and, crucially, who ought to play Doug if there’s ever a movie.
“JERRY SEINFELD,” she said. “He’s got that schtick and Doug is super charismatic so he needs someone with a very good, charismatic personality.” (For his part, Doug has previously embraced the idea of being played by BRADLEY COOPER).
Movie casting differences aside, the ex-partners have a friendly relationship in unique circumstances. Kerstin lent some creative help to Harris’s presidential campaign and regularly posts pro-Kamala messages on Instagram and Twitter. As Harris wrote of Kerstin in her 2019 memoir: “We really hit it off ourselves and became friends. (We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional.)”
Kerstin even used to do spin classes with Doug and Kamala. “When she was [California attorney general] and senator, I’d meet them at the SoulCycle by their house, and we’d take a class together,” she said. “There’s just no chance of doing that now….we’ve talked about that but I think it would torture Secret Service.” (Probably true, but MICHELLE OBAMA did manage to sneak-in private rides).
Kerstin grew up in Minnesota and moved to Los Angeles to go to film school. She met Doug when she was waitressing in the early 90’s. “I would have never thought that I would have married a lawyer,” she said—echoing a good chunk of the population. “I was a film student and I grew up in a performing arts school, but you know I like really smart people, and he’s incredibly smart and we connected very quickly.”
In 1994, when she was four months pregnant with their son Cole and had just gotten over morning sickness, Kerstin worked as a production manager on the music video for the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer.”
“I’m like this naive girl from Minnesota and looking at things that I’m like ‘What is that?’ and getting TRENT REZNOR to explain them to me,” she said. “To have a rotting pig’s head, a raw side of veal, a spider monkey, cockroaches, and an entire wall of sex toys — which, you know, I was still like ‘what?’” (The lyrics are unprintable. We asked our editors).
When she was about to turn 40 and “having a midlife crisis” in 2007, she decided to start her own production company called Prettybird, which Ad Age recently named the 2021 Production Company of the year.
Since then, her producing credits include JENNIFER LOPEZ, Beyoncé, Netflix’s XOXO, a Beats by Dre spot with COLIN KAEPERNICK, the HBO documentary about the OSAMA BIN LADEN manhunt, and some preliminary work on a potential upcoming documentary on flipping Georgia blue.
One shoot in Barcelona with RONALDINHO went a bit haywire when the Brazilian soccer star didn’t show up. She found out what club he frequented and walked in at 2am in “a tracksuit of some kind — like, bad suburban mom outfit.” He showed up the next day.
Despite that background, she was the political one in her marriage. “Doug was never really political, the kids aren’t political,” she said. “I never wanted to be in politics but I’d have Fintech Zoom running 24/7 in the house.”
That interest was woven into Prettybird, which has long focused on diversity in a way that goes beyond press releases, according to MELINA MATSOUKAS, who directed Beyonce’s “Formation” with Prettybird. “It’s been really important to them to find other filmmakers of color, to uplift and support and advocate for,” she said.
“And she’s been a great partner for me in that as well. I’m always up against it, and sometimes exploited because I check all the boxes, and she’s been a great protection in that and also taught me how to speak for myself.”
Matsoukas said Kerstin’s connection to the vice president is “a little weird” but that she’s kept her focus on her work and family.
As for Kerstin’s personal life, we had to ask: Is she dating anyone?
“Maybe,” Kerstin said coyly. “I don’t need any people that are in my personal life getting any spotlight. It’s already complicated enough.”
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Which president moved his office to a tent in the Rose Garden to get some relief from D.C.’s summer heat?
(Answer at the bottom.)
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: This MIKE MEMOLI NBC News story on the White House’s “Child Tax Credit Awareness Day” push. The administration sent the vice president to Pittsburgh to talk up the credit, Biden filmed a video touting it, and many senior White House officials blasted out their own pro-child tax credit take.
“The White House has viewed efforts like Monday’s as critical to sustaining political momentum for further economic initiatives like his stimulus plan,” Memoli wrote. Harris deputy communications director HERBIE ZISKEND and White House deputy press secretary CHRIS MEAGHER both quote-tweeted the story.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: Despite a call the other week from the president to discuss his concerns, LARRY SUMMERS continued his inflation-fear offensive at the Qatar Economic Forum Monday in a conversation with investor RAY DALIO, per Bloomberg.
In remarks sure to irk the White House, Summers said: “Much of the consensus of professional forecasters in February was that we would have inflation just above 2% this year…We’ve already had more inflation than that in the first five months of the year.”
He threw some wonky shade toward the Federal Reserve, too. “I welcome the Fed’s limited efforts to mark its views toward reality and a growing awareness that this overheating is likely to necessitate a monetary policy response,” he said. “People should not just modify their forecasts but should think about what their errors of thinking were that led them to be so far off in their forecasts.”
CLIENTS REVEALED — You already know that several high-ranking Biden administration officials once worked for WestExec Advisors, the consulting firm co-founded by Secretary of State TONY BLINKEN. But GRANT HARRIS, Biden’s nominee to be the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for industry and analysis, counted WestExec itself as a client, according to his newly public personal financial disclosure.
Harris consulted for WestExec through his own firm, Connect Frontier, which advises “companies and organizations on strategy, policy and mitigating risk in emerging and frontier markets,” according to its website. (The firm will be inactive while Harris is in government, according to the disclosure.) Some of his other clients: Columbia University and two companies involved in Nigerian oil exploration, which he advised through the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Two other Biden nominees disclosed their legal clients:
NEIL MacBRIDE, Biden’s nominee to be the Treasury Department’s general counsel, represented 15 clients including AstraZeneca, Facebook, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and the defense contractor General Dynamics as a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell.
And MICHAEL CONNOR, Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, represented 18 clients including NextEra Energy, the Nature Conservancy, Kia Motors and the Cayuga Nation tribe as a partner at WilmerHale.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The Senate is preparing to vote on the nomination of CHRISTOPHER FONZONE to be general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — a cloture vote is scheduled for this evening.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote tomorrow on MICHELE SISON’s nomination for assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, as well as routine lists for the foreign service.
The Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing with two Treasury nominees: BRIAN NELSON to be undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes and ELIZABETH ROSENBERG to be assistant secretary for terrorist financing.
Biden to revive presidential portrait tradition Trump skipped (NBC News’ Carol E. Lee)
Obama BLM director: Biden needs a new nominee (E&E News’ Scott Streater)
PHOTOS: Swingers Crazy Golf Opening Party — with a Symone Sanders appearance (Washingtonian’s Dan Swartz)
Fauci on the lab leak theory and emailing Mark Zuckerberg (NYT’s Kara Swisher)
White House: Biden’s Catholic faith is not ‘political’ (Our own Quint Forgey)
Climate on agenda as Biden prepares to meet with top financial regulators (Reuters’ Trevor Hunnicutt)
Domestic policy adviser SUSAN RICE will be on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at 10 p.m. ET.
Biden met this afternoon with financial regulators — Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN, Federal Reserve Chair JEROME POWELL, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Acting Chair ROSTIN BEHNAM, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair GARY GENSLER, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Acting Director DAVE UEJIO, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chair JELENA McWILLIAMS and Acting Comptroller of the Currency MICHAEL HSU.
Harris headed to Pittsburgh, where she and Labor Secretary MARTY WALSH delivered remarks on Child Tax Credit Awareness Day at the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center.
Director of press operations PETER VELZ, aide OPAL VADHAN, director of speechwriting KATE CHILDS GRAHAM, senior advisor SYMONE SANDERS and deputy director of public engagement & intergovernmental affairs VINCENT EVANS, accompanied the vice president.
Harris and Walsh also held a roundtable discussion about worker unionizing and empowerment at IBEW Local Union 5.
Biden’s deputy chief of staff BRUCE REED just can’t seem to help himself.
“Working on a Presidential campaign is a miserable experience,” he said in a 2004 interview. “It’s hell for your family. The pay is terrible. The candidate is almost never happy. Campaigns are like poorly run small business start-ups with a whole bunch of people who don’t know how to run a business.”
And yet, Reed keeps doing them. During the 2020 Demcoratic primary, he was on the road with Biden perhaps more than anyone.
As miserable as they can be, Reed said, “There is nothing quite like being in the center of things.”
In the summer of 1914, WOODROW WILSON moved his office into a tent. It was equipped with a desk, chairs, electric lights, push buttons, and a telephone, according to The White House Historical Association.
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Edited by Emily Cadei
WFC Stock – Doug Emhoff’s ex is way cooler than he is
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