WASHINGTON — Katie Walsh is ascendant at the Republican National Committee once again after leaving her job as deputy White House chief of staff under Reince Priebus at the end of March.
Walsh, who was chief of staff at the RNC when Priebus was chairman, rejoined the committee in April, soon after leaving the White House.
Under the direction of current RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, and in coordination with the White House, the RNC has revamped its data operation, with Walsh playing a key role.
“We’re bringing in new ideas and innovating, whereas after 2004 we stopped innovating and got beaten on the data and ground-game efforts in 2008,” Walsh said.
Control of detailed data about individual voters can be influential in close elections. But it’s also one of the few assets that national committees possess to exercise influence over state party organizations, candidates and campaigns.
Walsh comes from a fundraising background. As chief of staff of the RNC under Priebus, she made the control of voter data a priority, sometimes putting her at odds with outside groups, such as the Koch Brothers’ data operation, i360.
Several recent departures from the RNC’s data shop have increased Walsh’s stature and reduced the influence of a previous generation of RNC data operatives.
The RNC recently replaced its chief data officer, Jesse Kamzol. And when the RNC brought in someone from outside the building, three other top officials decided to leave.
Multiple sources have told Yahoo News that Kamzol’s deputy, Liam O’Rourke, is quitting after Kamzol’s job went to Ellen Bredenkoetter, formerly of the Data Trust, a firm that works closely with the RNC to house their data and make it available to outside groups.
Bredenkoetter had previously worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee and on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.
Walsh told Yahoo News that the installation of Bredenkoetter was part of an effort to infuse the RNC’s data operation with people who have had campaign experience, and to avoid complacency after the victories of 2016.
“We needed to continue to grow. That really is the methodology behind it,” Walsh said.
Bredenkoetter’s hire was recommended by an independent audit of the data department that was commissioned by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Walsh agreed with the assessment, as did senior leadership at the White House, she said.
O’Rourke did not respond to emails seeking comment.