Back Story: How Jeremy Bernard Became the White House's First Openly Gay Social Secretary
Jeremy Bernard, left, with former partner Rufus Gifford in 2008
On February 1, 2007, political fund raiser Jeremy Bernard wasn't thinking about making history.
It was his first day on the job for U.S. Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and Bernard and his then-partner, Rufus Gifford, were part of a skeletal crew of Obama supporters in California who hoped the man from Illinois would someday sit in the White House.
Four years later, Bernard, a sharp-witted, affable man, has now joined Obama and his family in Washington D.C., becoming the first male and openly gay social secretary at the White House.
In 2008, L.A. Weekly was given exclusive access to follow around Bernard and Gifford as they raised millions of dollars for Obama's campaign, which turned into a widely-read feature story titled "Obama's Gay Gold Mine."
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Bernard's recent White House appointment made national headlines last week, but the back story of how he got there is just as interesting.
In 2007, Bernard, who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and Gifford were considered hot-shot campaign fund raisers within Democratic Party circles.
Bernard worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign with Democratic party insider and gay rights veteran David Mixner. Bernard later became a political adviser to wealthy L.A. communications executive Marc Nathanson.
Bernard, as a result, had connections to Los Angeles's major Democratic party contributors, including rich gays and lesbians. Gifford, who worked on John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, had national ties to big time donors.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came calling with a job offer for the two gay men, who lived together in Los Angeles and owned a political consulting firm called B + G Associates. So did the Obama campaign. Bernard and Gifford went with the Illinois senator.
When they first started working for Obama, he was still taking commercial flights into California, with little to no entourage.
Obama's campaign staff in the state was so small in number, in fact, that Bernard and Gifford were not only fund raisers but advance men, political strategists and sometimes bodyguards for the presidential candidate.
Bernard and Gifford got a lot of face time with Obama, with Bernard often tutoring the candidate on gay rights issues. They also raised millions and millions of dollars for the senator.
After the 2008 election, Bernard and Gifford broke up, and Bernard went to work for the U.S. Ambassador to France as his chief of staff. Then Barack Obama came calling again. Bernard took the offer.
The Washington Post notes that one reason Bernard may have been gotten the job was because of his connections to wealthy donors.
If that's true, many of those connections lead to California and, more specifically, the Los Angeles area.
For further reading about Bernard and the 2008 Obama campaign, read "Obama's Gay Gold Mine."
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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