National Journal

Reputation

“Gary A. Feld is one of the best political researchers with whom I’ve ever worked. At the National Republican Senatorial Committee Gary’s team worked in close collaboration with our communications team to develop comprehensive research material that drove effective paid and earned media strategies.”

Jay Timmons, President and CEO
National Association of Manufacturers

People

Posted May 24, 2012 | 5:00 p.m. | by Christopher Snow Hopkins

Consulting Game

Gary Feld

At a concert last October, actress Hilary Swank earnestly thanked her host, unaware that the Chechen head of state had been accused of heinous human-rights violations.

“I got the opportunity to take a tour of the city today,” Swank told the audience, referring to Grozny, Chechnya’s capital city. “I could feel the spirit of the people; everyone felt so happy—it was nice to be around.”

The media pilloried Swank for attending the party, a lavish affair to mark President Ramzan Kadyrov’s 35th birthday. She later apologized, professing ignorance of “what this event was apparently intended to be.”

As the scandal was unfolding, a colleague said to Gary Feld, “It’s too bad that someone like her didn’t have someone like you.”

That remark spawned what Feld is calling “celebvocacy”: the use of political methodology to help celebrities protect their reputation and pursue their advocacy goals. Had Swank vetted her Chechen host, Feld says, she would have avoided a public-relations debacle.

“Celebvocacy” is one service offered by PowerBase Associates, a strategic-communications firm in Alexandria, Va., that Feld launched earlier this month. The former Republican operative, who wrote his doctoral thesis on how campaigns spend money, has been laying the groundwork for PowerBase since stepping down from DCI Group in December.

Growing up in Toronto, Feld was enthralled by U.S. politics and highly knowledgeable about world affairs. His mother, Judy Feld Carr, is a human-rights activist who helped smuggle 3,200 Jews out of Syria over the course of 28 years. She is the subject of the 2011 documentary Miss Judy.

After graduating from the University of Toronto, Feld received a master’s degree from Boston College and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. While writing his dissertation, he also worked as a senior analyst for the Los Angeles Times, helping build a massive database for the Washington bureau’s special-investigations unit. The resulting trove of data—which catalogued every campaign expenditure by a House or Senate general-election candidate between 1990 and 1994—highlighted the pervasive influence of money in politics. By and large, campaigns were in the business of fundraising, not barnstorming—a startling conclusion for some political observers. “People did not normally associate fundraising with campaigning,” Feld says.

After the 2000 presidential election, he says, “I decided that I wanted to get involved in politics rather than looking at it from the outside.” After a year with the Republican National Committee, he became director of statistical analysis at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In 2003, Feld rose to research director.

Before joining DCI Group as a vice president, the 45-year-old served as director of strategic initiatives for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

His wife, Melissa Feld, is a Democratic candidate for the Alexandria City Council. (The primary is next month.) On being married to a former aide to prominent Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Gary Feld quips, “At least one of us will always have a job.”

The couple’s eldest daughter is named Reagan. “I won the coin toss,” Feld says, facetiously. “Otherwise, she would have been named Truman.”