Clinton connections high and low across the media are not shocking. They’re part of what Rush Limbaugh calls an “incestuous revolving door in Washington,” through which media establishments pluck politicos for their telegenic and talking points acumen until another administration calls. Some find their way into Hollywood.
Experienced Democratic campaign staffer Jay Carson raised eyebrows six years ago when he chose to uproot from his political grounds in New York and relocate to the West Coast. George Stephanopoulos’ former intern (discreetly named James Frederick Carson in the acknowledgments of Stephanopoulos’ book All Too Human) worked as Hillary Clinton’s press secretary during her 2008 presidential bid and became chief deputy mayor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa the following year after a brief stint at millionaire and Clinton supporter Steve Bing’s Shangri-La Industries.
“It doesn’t make sense at all,” a California Democratic insider told L.A. Weekly in 2009. “Why would he go from Bill Clinton to Hillary Clinton to Steve Bing to Antonio Villaraigosa? Why would he work for a lame duck mayor?”
Former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye reported that the role of “chief deputy mayor” was specially created for Carson, and was a conflict of interest that would benefit Bing in a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Carson didn’t remain Villaraigosa’s deputy for long. In 2010, he resigned from his mayoral position and joined the board of directors for the L.A. film office. The press couldn’t help but speculate that he was planning to make a movie about the intrigue he witnessed in politics.
In fact, the Macon, Georgia native became a co-producer of (and political consultant for) the Netflix original series House of Cards. That was a natural fit, considering Carson was creator and writer Beau Willimon’s best friend in college as well as colleague on Chuck Schumer’s 1998 senate campaign (per Stephanopolous’ prodding) and Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. Carson’s wife, Sarah Treem, has worked as a writer and producer on House of Cards. Carson was instrumental in recruiting Stephanopoulous to make a cameo appearance in the second episode of the show’s first season.
On the academic front, Carson became Adjunct Professor at USC’s Annenberg School and Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, which was established with funding from Meyer and Renee Luskin, who also covered Bill and Hillary Clinton’s combined half a million dollars’ worth of speakers’ fees for UCLA’s Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership.
For several years Carson served as Executive Director of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Senior Advisor to Bloomberg Philanthropies, but he is no longer listed on their websites. C40 Cities partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative in 2006, an initiative that Carson helped develop while working as communications director for the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Carson is not far removed from the Clinton machine. Might he make a reappearance?