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Rahm Emanuel aide Ben LaBolt to take up press duties for Obama campaign

Ben LaBolt, press spokesman for Rahm Emanuel, will work on President Obama's 2012 campaign after Emanuel becomes Chicago mayor in mid-May.

April 05, 2011|By Christi Parsons, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — After surviving an intense tryout in the Chicago mayor's race, 29-year-old Ben LaBolt is being given a possibly even tougher assignment for a press spokesman: President Obama's reelection campaign. 

LaBolt will move to the Obama reelection campaign after the mid-May inauguration of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, for whom he acts as communications director, according to sources familiar with the decision. 

The appointment opens up significant shuffling of aides between the Obama and Emanuel operations.

The word came Tuesday afternoon, a day after Obama filed papers to organize his campaign with federal elections officials. The president has been conspicuously swamped with presidential duties since authorizing that the announcement be made to supporters by email and video, and aides say he is focused on his job rather than on staying in office.

But the campaign organization is in motion toward a series of fundraisers this month, starting on April 14 in Chicago, where the campaign will be based.

The selection of LaBolt nearly completes the upper-level team to be led by campaign manager Jim Messina. The campaign has not yet named a political director.

A native of suburban La Grange, Ill., LaBolt was already a veteran of Capitol Hill and of the Obama Senate office when he was named a national spokesman for the 2008 campaign operation.

After that, as a member of the White House press staff, he specialized in issues involving justice, energy and the environment. He was the spokesman for the efforts to confirm Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

When Emanuel left his position as White House chief of staff, he took LaBolt back to Chicago with him to work on the mayoral campaign.

When he moves to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago, LaBolt's deputy press secretary will be Katie Hogan, a Chicago native who served in the presidential campaign and in the White House.

Officials do not plan to appoint a communications director for the time being. Obama media guru David Axelrod will play a prominent role in the campaign.

Meanwhile, taking over the press duties at City Hall will be communications director Chris Mather, currently the communications director at Obama's Department of Agriculture, and press secretary Tarrah Cooper, formerly at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mather has worked in Chicago for years, with labor, trial lawyers and women's advocacy groups, as well as with the Democratic National Committee and Obama's presidential inauguration committee.

She will handle overall strategic communications for Emanuel. Cooper will be the spokeswoman handling day-to-day duties and traveling with the mayor.

cparsons@tribune.com

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