MEET OUR TEAM
CEO & FOUNDER
For nearly two decades, Kenneth Baer has worked at the intersection of policy, politics, ideas, and communications as a government official, adviser, writer, and entrepreneur.
From January 2009 to July 2012, Ken was the Senior Advisor and Associate Director for Communications and Strategic Planning at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
In this role, Ken was part of a small leadership team that set the direction for and ran this White House office and Cabinet-level agency, and he advised the Director on policy decisions. He directed all strategic positioning and communications, new media activities, external affairs, and press relations for the agency and its key leadership. In addition to being an on-the-record Administration spokesman on a range of economic, fiscal, management, and other policy issues, Ken was the lead writer and editor of the President’s Budget and ran every aspect of its rollout. As a senior OMB official, he worked closely with the White House press and communications teams, the Administration’s economic team, and officials throughout the executive branch. Baer was named one of the Obama Administration’s “key decision makers” by National Journal and was profiled in Politico.
Before joining the Obama Administration, Ken founded Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, a progressive quarterly, named in its inaugural year Best New Publication by the Independent Press Awards and recognized as an incubator of cutting-edge policy ideas.
Baer also founded Baer Communications, LLC, where he wrote for and provided strategic communications counsel to Fortune 500 companies, major non-profit institutions, presidential campaigns, and elected officials at every level of government. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Baer co-wrote Change We Can Believe In, the Obama campaign’s policy book which became a New York Times best-seller. Before founding Baer Communications in 2001, Ken was Deputy Director of Speechwriting for Gore-Lieberman 2000 and Senior Speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. In addition to speechwriting, he edited the campaign’s major policy books on the economy, family policy, and other issues. Before joining the Vice President, Ken wrote on technology and telecommunications issues for FCC Chairman William Kennard. He also has helped run the speechwriting operation at the last five Democratic conventions.
Ken brings to his work this practical experience as well as a deep understanding of American politics, history, and culture. He is the author of Reinventing Democrats: The Politics of Liberalism from Reagan to Clinton (University Press of Kansas, 2000), the definitive history of the New Democrat movement. In addition to being a regular on-line columnist for the New Republic, the American Prospect, and Time, Ken has published commentaries in publications such as Slate, the New York Times, and the Washington Post and has been a political analyst on several television networks.
Ken has a doctorate in Politics from Oxford University, where he was a Sir John and Lady Thouron Scholar, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Ken also has been an adjunct professor of government at Georgetown University and a Sacks Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University.
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
Michael Schmidt has nearly 20 years of experience in strategic communications, public affairs and journalism. Mike has advised Fortune 100 companies, manufacturers and technology developers, national NGOs and government agencies from the federal to the county level. He has significant experience developing and leading public affairs, thought leadership and corporate reputation campaigns, and has also done major public education/behavior change, coalition and crisis work.
Mike’s forte is building strategies that integrate traditional, digital, creative and organizational assets to increase visibility at the right time with the right audiences to achieve aims. He brings superb news judgment, a deep set of media and industry contacts, and an understanding of a variety of issues, politics, public opinion and markets to develop strategies and relationships for clients. He’s worked on economic, environmental and sustainability, finance, food safety, health care, life sciences, manufacturing and national security issues, among others.
Before joining Crosscut, Mike was Director of Communications for the centrist think tank Third Way and Senior Vice President for the global PR firm Golin, where he led a team that won PRWeek magazine’s Public Affairs Campaign of the Year. At both organizations, he had overall responsibility for strategy and campaign implementation, and conducted outreach to elite media.
Prior, Mike spent nine years as a correspondent and editor for the Financial Times Group and the Platts division of McGraw-Hill, writing exhaustively about energy and environmental issues, following a stint at a consulting firm analyzing political, security and investment conditions in all world regions for multinational firms like Ernst & Young, Goldman Sachs, Lloyd’s of London and Toshiba.
Mike grew up in New York, lived briefly in San Francisco and resides in Washington’s Virginia suburbs with his family. He graduated from George Mason University with degrees in English and International Relations.
Courtney Lamie has worked at the intersection of policy and politics, with a focus on tech, for more than a decade.
Prior to joining the Crosscut team, Courtney founded and led the communications department at the Application Developers Alliance, a non-profit global membership organization dedicated to supporting app developers. At the Alliance, Courtney led national advocacy campaigns on patent reform and mobile app privacy and worked with the Alliance membership – from startups to major players in the app industry including Google, Intel, and Samsung – to create and promote app industry best practices and guidelines. Courtney also built out the Apps Alliance’s digital channels and social media presence, turning them into an effective arm of the organization. Before that, Courtney worked on the communications team of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, with a focus on digital, grassroots, and policy communication, and worked for her home district congressman and tech policy leader, Rick Boucher, from 2004 to 2010 as his Press Secretary and eventually as his Communications Director.
A native Virginian, Courtney holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Virginia and a Master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University.
Eva Whaley brings more than a decade of health communications experience to the Crosscut team, having led the communications strategy for a District of Columbia health system and advised digital health companies, nonprofit foundations, university research programs, and government agencies.
With significant knowledge of the health care industry, Eva was the director of communications and resource development at The HSC Health Care System, where she was responsible for marketing, advertising, media relations, and digital communications across a Medicaid health plan, pediatric specialty hospital, and home health agency.
She previously worked with a variety of health sector clients at independent and global public relations firms where she crafted plain language messaging and brand platforms. For the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Eva counseled grantees on programs that address the quality of America’s health care, including its signature effort to improve the quality of care in targeted communities. She also served as press contact for the Dartmouth Atlas Project, analyzing Medicare reimbursement data for journalists and managing media relations, and as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Education Program.
Eva holds a master’s degree in public communication from American University and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Delaware.
Elena Waskey has more than a decade of experience in strategic communications, media relations, and journalism, spanning both the public and private sectors.
Prior to Crosscut, Elena led the communications team at the National Governors Association (NGA), the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. While at NGA, Elena helped craft messages across a variety of public policy issues important to states, including Affordable Care Act implementation, Medicaid, the opioid epidemic, cybersecurity and emerging technology, and energy efficiency. In her time there, she grew NGA’s media coverage and digital presence exponentially, effectively managing its reputation inside and outside the Beltway.
Before that, Elena worked for Gannett, a national media company, in several editorial roles. She was a founding member of USA TODAY’s premium publications department, where she served as lead editor of magazines across a spectrum of topic areas, including travel, lifestyle, health, sports, and special events. She also edited and researched for USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper supplement magazine, which boasted 500 million readers. In her time at Gannett, she helped launch more than a dozen news, lifestyle and entertainment publications.
Elena holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in strategic communication from American University. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America.
Rachel has spent years communicating the messages of think tank scholars, business leaders, and political campaigns. She has significant experience developing and coordinating communications strategies, elevating experts’ profiles, preparing spokespeople for media interviews, writing and placing opinion pieces, conducting high-stakes media outreach, and explaining complex economic issues.
Prior to joining Crosscut Strategies, she was a regional press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign in Ohio, where she managed local media. Rachel was previously the press secretary at Business Forward, where she helped business leaders advocate for a variety of economic policies. Rachel began her career at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, where she promoted scholars and their research through high-profile national media outlets and local media across the country. Rachel has a bachelor’s degree in English from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in communication from the Johns Hopkins University.
Nate Shelter has worked both in and around government for nearly five years, helping organizations reach their goals through effective communications.
He uses a combination of research, storytelling, and technology to build campaigns that establish organizations as thought leaders in their field. And he has deep experience conveying organizations’ complex issues to their key stakeholders – the public, businesses, the media, and policymakers at all levels of government – helping them communicate their impact, enhance their relevance, and increase funding levels. Before joining the firm, Nate led communications for the U.S. Department of Energy’s $200 million building energy efficiency program. He developed and implemented a comprehensive communications strategy that built the program’s reputation among Congress, the Administration, and the energy industry. The strategy included an underlying messaging framework, analytical tools to track the program’s accomplishments, outreach products, and in-person events with key congressional and industry leaders. He also redesigned their website, started a blog and a weekly e-newsletter, and amplified their social media presence.
Nate has worked at a number of strategic communications and government affairs firms, crafting compelling stories that move opinion for clients in sectors such as healthcare, software, technology development, entertainment, manufacturing, biofuels, and clean energy. He also worked at a digital design agency, partnering with healthcare and financial services companies to improve people’s digital experiences.
Nate holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Communication from American University.
DIGITAL COMMS SPECIALIST
With a background in political advocacy, grassroots activism, and digital media, Jen Miller has worked to advance a broad range of issues, from the Freedom to Marry campaign in Ohio to economic and cultural regeneration for Glasgow, UK with Patricia Ferguson, a member of the Scottish Parliament.
Jen coordinates social media, crowdfunding, digital design, and online community management for Crosscut Strategies. Before joining the firm, she was the marketing director for the Paper City Music Festival and Your Town Entertainment, where she helped successfully fund two independent albums on Kickstarter, double the funding and attendance of Paper City Music festival in one calendar year, and increase social media followers for several bands and musicians by more than 10,000.
Jen holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology from Wittenberg University.
MEDIA RELATIONS SPECIALIST
Focused on the crossroads of politics and media, Nicholas Samonas has experience ranging from issue advocacy to corporate public affairs. His work at Crosscut Strategies includes policy research, campaign planning, and digital media strategy for health care, technology, and economic policy clients.
Prior to joining Crosscut, Nick worked in media planning for Shorr Johnson Magnus, helping to implement paid media campaigns for some of the top political races in the country. He previously worked in strategic communications at two leading public affairs firms assisting both corporate and non-profit clients with federal and state outreach campaigns. His expertise includes policy and media research, media relations, event management, and digital communications.
Nicholas holds a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, with a focus in the Middle East, from American University.
Megan assists with client research, media planning, and content development.
Prior to joining Crosscut, Megan worked at Levick Communications and before that Purple Strategies where she learned how to conduct media campaigns and public relations activities. Her responsibilities included completing research projects and social media audits that informed team actions, ghostwriting blog posts and LinkedIn posts for clients and upper level management, and creating client deliverables that provided status updates to the client about a particular legislative issue or company crisis. Megan has secured placements in publications such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.
Megan, a Philadelphia native, holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Public Service from the University of Pennsylvania.
David joined Crosscut Strategies following two years as a Teach for America corps member in South Dakota, where he taught first graders. An Iowa native, David holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications from American University.
While at AU, David served as a co-student director of the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program. He coordinated the program’s print and online communications, which included a successful effort to increase the program’s social media presence. David gained a strong understanding of health care policy at the bipartisan lobbying firm ML Strategies, where he followed congressional hearings and issues surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He also has experience with the Iowa Department of Education and on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign in Iowa.
Sydney Ringer comes to Crosscut after working at Teach for America on their Public Partnerships, helping to strengthen relationships with elected officials and community organizations. She previously worked at Facebook on their Politics & Government team, teaching elected officials how to best utilize the Facebook platform.
Sydney also has experience on Capitol Hill, working for Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
Sydney, a New Jersey native, holds a bachelor's degree in Government from Georgetown University where she spent her spare time on the school's hip hop dance team.
Travis Van Horn brings a background in public affairs, media relations, content development, and grassroots advocacy that spans a wide variety of industries and public policy areas.
Travis comes to Crosscut Strategies from the National Grocers Association, where he secured earned media coverage of the organization’s policy agenda and programs, and helped enhance the association’s role as a thought leader. He also worked with the government relations team at the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO.
Before that Travis completed an apprenticeship program at Schmidt Public Affairs, a boutique agency that represents clients in the health policy space. During his time with the firm, Travis gained hands-on experience executing strategic communications campaigns for some of the leading voices in chronic kidney disease, end-stage renal disease, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, patient advocacy, and radiation oncology. He also interned with Oregon United for Marriage, the coalition to win the freedom to marry in Oregon, and in the office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
Travis received his undergraduate degree in political Science from Western Oregon University and a graduate degree in political communication from American University.
Matt Miller has experience researching and crafting messages for a public relations firm, arts nonprofits, and a US Senate campaign.
Prior to joining Crosscut, Matt worked at kglobal Public Relations + Public Affairs, conducting research and drafting content for prominent brands and trade groups. He's also held positions in the external relations departments of non-profits such as the Washington Performing Arts Society and Washington Improv Theater, helping to raise the profile of some of the District's most prominent arts organizations. Before that, Matt also worked on Chris Van Hollen's successful 2016 campaign for the US Senate.
Matt holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Maryland.
An expert at creating high-impact, award-winning communications campaigns, Chris Lisi has helped shape the public relations, marketing, and political images of organizations ranging from small nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies during her nearly 20 years in Washington, D.C.
During her consulting tenure, Chris has been retained by several U.S. government agencies to manage complex communications projects and national rollouts including serving as the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary Director and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In the private sector, Chris worked for the Glover Park Group and FleishmanHillard where she consulted for several bluechip technology and health care companies and influential trade organizations.
Chris has also worked over the last several years for The Atlantic managing their Aspen Ideas Festival underwriters’ interactions with media during the Festival. She also does media training, executive coaching, and event management.
Julie Teninbaum is a designer, illustrator, and art director who has been working in the field for more than 10 years.
She has an affinity for clean, crisp layouts, expressive typography, and concept-driven design. Her work has appeared in Time, the Washington Post, Esquire, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Fast Company, and Martha Stewart’s Blueprint - which she helped found as senior art director. She also has worked with a range of companies on logo design and branding, and will serve as lead designer and art director on this project. Julie received her master’s in graphic design from Yale University, and is frequently invited to sit as guest critic or jury member on design panels.