A few of Washington’s most high-profile women met Tuesday night at the Italian Embassy for a dinner in their honor. The women convened at the behest of Elle magazine, which has compiled its annual “Women in Washington Power List.” There were senators and cabinet members and high-profile diplomats, but few could command the room’s attention quite like Cheryl Mills, who is at the center of the topic of conversation of real interest in the nation’s capital: Will Hillary run or not?
Mills, a longtime adviser and former aide to Hillary Clinton, owes her influence to being a fixture in the presumptive nominee’s inner circle. She recently made headlines when The Wall Street Journal reported she was one of the close advisers encouraging Clinton against running for president. Mills’ mother, LaVerne, made an attempt to clarify her daughter’s reported positions by saying she had Clinton’s best interests at heart.
This story first appeared in the March 28, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“She told her she needs to live her own life, but if she were to run for president, Cheryl’ll be there for her,’’ the older Mills said. One of three Clinton protégés on Elle’s list, Mills hit the national stage in 1999 when, as deputy White House counsel, she defended President Bill Clinton against Congressional impeachment charges. She went on to become Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department. “She and Hillary are like this,” Mill’s mother said, holding up two first fingers with no glint of daylight in between.
Neera Tanden, another Clinton acolyte who is president of the Center for American Progress, was unequivocal about the urgency of a Clinton candidacy. “She needs to do it,’’ Tanden said. “It’s not going to be easy for a woman to win if it’s not her.’’
Capricia Marshall was the other former Clinton aide on the list, which also included Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii); Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Penny Pritzker, a staunch, early Barack Obama fund-raiser who is now Secretary of Commerce. They were joined at the dinner by Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers and CNN personality Stephanie Cutter, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), Heather Podesta and Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his wife, the well-known Washington hostess Rima.
Pritzker, who was dressed in a blue silk Christian Dior sheath, was close to marking her first-year anniversary on the cabinet. She pointed to SelectUSA, a program to encourage foreign businesses to expand into the U.S., as “one of the initiatives I’m proudest of because it plays to an area I know.
“It’s President Obama’s initiative, and I’ve had many foreign business leaders say this is something they’ve never seen so directly encouraged,” she added.
Each honoree had a chance to address the crowd on the subject of power. CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash spoke about her “love of shoes.” She said her camera crew always knows to get ready when “they hear the click, click, click” as she walks through the marble corridors of power under the Capitol dome.