The DC to Silicon Valley pipeline: Meet the former Washington power-players who joined the ranks at tech companies like Amazon and Airbnb

Avery Hartmans
Jay Carney
Jay Carney. Thierry Monasse/Corbis via Getty Images
  • In recent years, there's been a talent pipeline from Washington, DC, to Silicon Valley. 

  • Several for Obama administration officials now work at tech companies like Airbnb and Amazon. 

  • Jay Carney, President Barack Obama's former press secretary, is now a high-ranking Amazon employee. Tony West, a former Justice Department official, is a C-level executive at Uber. 

  • Other helped run political campaigns or held State Department positions before making the switch to the tech world. 

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These days, it seems like there's a direct talent pipeline from Washington, DC, to Silicon Valley. 

President Barack Obama's former press secretary now runs public relations at Amazon. Uber's chief legal officer used to work for the Department of Justice - and happens to be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' brother-in-law. And Airbnb, Stripe, and Apple are all home to former DC power players. 

Now, as President-elect Joe Biden lays the groundwork for his administration, even his transition team is stocked with over a dozen employees at tech companies like Amazon, Lyft, and Dropbox. It's fair to say the relationship between Washington and Silicon Valley has never been tighter.

Here are the key players who have made a name for themselves in both politics and the tech world: 

Jay Carney

Was: Obama's press secretary from 2011 to 2014. Prior to working for Obama, Carney served as communications director for then-Vice President Joe Biden. 

Now: Senior vice president of corporate affairs at Amazon. He oversees public policy and communications and is a member of Amazon's elite "S-team," a group of 23 of the company's most senior employees that helps shape culture and policy at Amazon.

Read more: Amazon has an elite group of execs who are guiding the company through the coronavirus chaos. Here are the 23 members of Jeff Bezos' 'S-team.'

Tony West

Tony West
Tony West. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Uber Elevate

Was: Special assistant to the deputy attorney general during President Bill Clinton's administration. During the Obama administration, he served as assistant attorney general of the civil division before becoming associate attorney general, the third-highest ranking official at the Justice Department. 

Now: Chief legal officer at Uber. West was recruited from PepsiCo in 2017 by Dara Khosrowshahi, who had taken over the embattled ride-sharing startup a few months prior. Early on in his tenure at Uber, West was tasked with navigating a massive data breach and a contentious court battle with self-driving-car rival Waymo. 

Courtney O'Donnell

Was: Director of communications for then-Second Lady Jill Biden from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, O'Donnell worked as press secretary for Howard Dean's presidential bid, as well as for Elizabeth Edwards during the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign. O'Donnell has also been serving as the Biden Campaign's chief of staff for Doug Emhoff, Harris' husband, according to her LinkedIn

Now: Director of global affairs and strategic partnerships at Airbnb. O'Donnell has been at Airbnb since 2014 and oversees the company's major tourism initiatives. 

Lartease Tiffith

Was: Senior counsel to Harris while she was in the Senate. Prior to working in Harris' office, Tiffith was a counsel for Sen. Dianne Feinstein and was an attorney in the Justice Department, according to his LinkedIn

Now: Tiffith has worked as an in-house lobbyist for Amazon since 2018

Cynthia Hogan

Cynthia Hogan
Cynthia Hogan. Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Was: Chief counsel for Biden during his time in the Senate, as well as during his tenure as Vice President. Hogan was also the chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the early 1990s, according to her LinkedIn.

Now: Vice president for public policy and government affairs at Apple. Prior to joining Apple in 2016, Hogan served as executive vice president for public policy for the National Football League. 

Arthur Plews

Was: Chief innovation officer at Small Business Administration during the Obama administration.

Now: User strategy and operations lead at Stripe. Plews is also part of the Biden transition as a member of the Small Business Administration review team. 

Chris Lehane

Chris Lehane
Chris Lehane. RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images

Was: Press secretary to Vice President Al Gore. He also served as a special assistant counsel to Clinton and a counselor to Andrew Cuomo, who was then secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Now: Head of global policy and communications at Airbnb. Lehane is highly influential at Airbnb, helping to shape the company's response to regulatory hurdles and guide the company toward its upcoming IPO. 

Katie Biber

Was: General counsel for then Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential bids in 2008 and 2012. Prior to that, Biber worked in the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Now: Chief legal officer at Brex. Before joining the credit-card startup, Biber worked at cryptocurrency company Anchorage and has served as in-house counsel at both Thumbtack and Airbnb, according to her LinkedIn

Tucker Bounds

Was: Deputy campaign manager for former HP and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman's California governor race. Before that, he was Sen. John McCain's spokesman when he ran for president in 2008. He also served as press secretary for the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2006, according to his LinkedIn

Now: Vice president of communications at Facebook. Bounds has had two stints at Facebook: He first served as director of corporate communications until 2014, then rejoined the company in 2017. 

Sarah Heck

Sarah Heck Stripe
Sarah Heck. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Was: Director of global engagement for the National Security Council from 2015 to 2017. Prior to that, Heck worked at the State Department's cultural affairs bureau, according to her LinkedIn. 

Now: Head of entrepreneurship at Stripe. Heck helps entrepreneurs worldwide start businesses, particularly in developing nations, according to the LA Times

Steven Siger

Was: Siger worked on Obama's campaign in 2008. He also worked in the Justice Department for three years during the Obama administration, according to his LinkedIn

Now: General counsel for Bungalow, a venture-backed co-living company. Before joining Bungalow, Siger worked at Thumbtack and Uber. 

Jessica Hertz

Was: Hertz is a lawyer who worked in DC for more than 10 years, first as a counselor in the Office of Management and Budget and later as the principal deputy counsel to Biden when he was Vice President, according to her LinkedIn.

Now: Hertz joined Facebook in 2018 as an attorney handling regulatory matters. Now, Hertz is joining the White House senior staff as Biden's staff secretary

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