Economic Advisors to the Next President


The Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS had segments last week and this week in which Paul Solman interviewed Senior Economic Advisors of Barack Obama and John McCain.  These interviews provide a window into the economic advice that will be available to the next President of the United States, depending on the outcome of the November election. 

The Senior Economic Advisor that the Obama campaign provided for the Solman interview was Laura D’Andrea Tyson, B.A. economics (Smith College summa cum laude, 1969), Ph.D. economics (MIT, 1974. Note that MIT had the nation’s leading economics department at that time.)  She is currently economics professor at the Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley.  She was on the faculty at Princeton University (1974-1977) and the University of California-Berkeley (1977-1993).  She served in the Clinton Administration as Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1993 to 1995 and Director of the National Economic Council from 1995 to 1996.  She was Dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California (1998-2001) and former Dean of the London Business School (2002-2006).


The Senior Economic Advisor that the McCain campaign provided for the Solman interview was Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer, M.A. (George Mason University).  She became chief economist of the Republican National Committee before the age of 24.  She has worked as the chief economist and chief lobbyist for Koch Industries.  With $110 billion in revenues, privately-held Koch Industries owns companies involved in refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals and fertilizers; fibers and polymers; commodity and financial trading.  Koch’s founder, Fred Koch, helped found the John Birch Society.

Nancy Mitchell then worked for George H.W. Bush’s transition team and for Sen. William Armstrong (R-CO), and was then appointed to be “chief economist of the President’s Council on Competitiveness,” Dan Quayle’s secretive anti-environmental project.

During the Clinton years, she rejoined the Koch Industries machine as “executive vice president for policy” of the Koch front group Citizens for a Sound Economy. With her then-husband Daniel Mitchell, a Heritage Foundation economist, she co-hosted the call-in show “Mitchells in the Morning” on National Empowerment Television, run by Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich. From 1996 to 2001, she was the top lobbyist for Koch Industries.

While working for Koch, she divorced Mitchell and married Gordon Smith’s (R-OR)’s chief of staff Kurt Pfotenhauer, now a top mortgage-industry lobbyist. In 2001 she was named president of another Koch front group, the anti-feminist Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). In 2003 she also became president of Americans for Prosperity (originally CSE), until joining the McCain campaign in 2007.


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