The Office of Public Liaison is a unit of the White House Office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Under the administration of President Obama, it was called the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. President Trump restored the prior name and created a separate Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The Office of Public Liaison has been responsible for communicating and interacting with various interest groups. Under President Richard Nixon, Charles Colson performed public liaison work. President Gerald Ford first formalized the public liaison office after he took office in 1974, giving Nixon administration veteran William J. Baroody Jr. a mandate for OPL to become "an instrument for projecting the image of a truly open administration (in contrast to Nixon's) and to secure Ford's election in 1976. Under Baroody’s direction, the office incorporated outreach efforts with consumers and women that had been located elsewhere in the White House, and the overall staff grew to approximately thirty. At the core of its activities was an aggressive campaign of regional conferences that enabled the nation’s first un-elected president to tour the country in a campaign-like atmosphere and prepare the way for an eventual reelection campaign."
Some OPL heads used the office to push their own agendas. Midge Costanza used her time at OPL to broaden the influence of gays and lesbians in White House policy. Faith Ryan Whittlesey used her time at OPL to increase the influence of the religious right and anti-communist groups, such as the Contras in Central America.
Future cabinet secretary and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole headed OPL under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1983. Directors during Bill Clinton's administration included future cabinet secretary Alexis Herman, Maria Echaveste, Minyon Moore and future John Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.
Under the Obama administration, the Office of Public Engagement had been referred to as "the front door to the White House, through which everyone can participate and inform the work of the President." In May 2009, Obama continued this theme and renamed the Office of Public Liaison the Office of Public Engagement.
In April 2009, actor Kal Penn was named an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. His role was said to include outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community. Prior to the appointment, he was a permanent cast member in the television series House, and his acceptance required him to be written out of the series.
President Donald Trump initially announced his intention to appoint Anthony Scaramucci to oversee the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in his administration, pending a review of Scaramucci's finances by the Office of Government Ethics. However George Sifakis was appointed instead in March 2017. On August 18, 2017, it was reported that Sifakis would be leaving the position and that a successor had been sought since early August.
The following have held the office of Assistant to the President for Public Liaison:
|Officeholder||Term start||Term end||President|
|Chuck Colson||July 9, 1970||March 10, 1973||Richard Nixon|
|William Baroody||March 10, 1973||January 20, 1977|
|Midge Costanza||January 20, 1977||September 1, 1978||Jimmy Carter|
|Anne Wexler||September 1, 1978||January 20, 1981|
|Elizabeth Dole||January 20, 1981||February 7, 1983||Ronald Reagan|
|Faith Whittlesey||March 3, 1983||March 19, 1985|
|Linda Chavez||April 8, 1985||February 4, 1986|
|Mari Maseng||May 12, 1986||July 1987|
|Rebecca Range||September 2, 1987||January 20, 1989|
|Bobbie Kilberg||January 20, 1989||April 6, 1992||George H. W. Bush|
|Cecile Kremer||April 6, 1992||January 20, 1993|
|Alexis Herman||January 20, 1993||February 7, 1997||Bill Clinton|
|Maria Echaveste||February 7, 1997||June 29, 1998|
|Minyon Moore||June 29, 1998||February 5, 1999|
|Mary Beth Cahill||February 5, 1999||January 20, 2001|
|Lezlee Westine||January 20, 2001||May 25, 2005||George W. Bush|
|Rhonda Keenum||May 25, 2005||March 20, 2007|
|Julie Cram||March 20, 2007||January 20, 2009|
|Valerie Jarrett||January 20, 2009||January 20, 2017||Barack Obama|
|George Sifakis||March 6, 2017||September 2017||Donald Trump|
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