With Bluelight, veteran of Hillaryland eyes the next fight

Steve Rabinowitz launches a new communications firm with Aaron Keyak aimed at the intersection between Washington and Jewish politics.

From left to right, Aaron Keyak, JFNA's William Daroff and Steve Rabinowitz at the soft launch of Bluelight Strategies (photo credit: Courtesy)
From left to right, Aaron Keyak, JFNA's William Daroff and Steve Rabinowitz at the soft launch of Bluelight Strategies
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON — Steve Rabinowitz wants to get the band back together.
A veteran of Bill Clinton’s original war room in Little Rock, Rabinowitz has been Team Clinton for decades. Hillary credits Rabinowitz for coining the term “Hillaryland” back in their days in Arkansas; and in Bill’s White House, Rabinowitz directed stagecraft and media coverage for all the president’s policy events – including Israel’s treaty signing with Jordan, and that South Lawn handshake seen round the world.
But that was then. Ever since, Rabinowitz has carved out a niche for himself in Washington that he has since dominated: Where national and Jewish politics converge, Steve is present.
He crystallizes that niche this month with the founding of Bluelight Strategies, a communications firm he describes as broad in its range and vast in its ambitions.
“We’ve found ourselves at this really wonderful nexus of political Washington and the Jewish and pro-Israel world,” Rabinowitz said in his Washington office in December. “And we get to have it both ways. So many of our clients are doing stuff that we buy into.”
That client base spans across the political spectrum. But on a personal basis, Rabinowitz and his new partner, Aaron Keyak, are faithfully ready for Hillary – “in any way they’ll allow us,” he says, "no expectations" but “anxious to be helpful.”
Keyak, 29, invigorates that effort. If Rabinowitz is an old-school Clintonite, Keyak is an Obamaphile, having successfully led a project in 2012 to keep Jewish voters in Barack Obama’s corner. The “Hub,” as it was called, brought together an aggressive combination of research, writing, correct-the-record press response and new media – tactics necessary for any future role in presidential politics, merged in Bluelight comfortably with the network of an old hand.
“Part of the reason why we’re back together is because of the success of the Hub model,” said Keyak, who left his job as communications director for Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) for Bluelight. “We’re going to apply that to campaigns, and also apply it to all of our clients.”
Clinton is likely to announce her 2016 intentions this month or next. But the race for support began a year ago. Ready for Hillary, founded in January of 2013, now has a branch devoted to shoring up support from Jewish Americans. The branch was started by Rabinowitz.
“Assuming there is a campaign – an assumption that looks more likely every day – I’m feeling very good about the high-level support Hillary will get among Jewish voters,” said Ann Lewis, also a veteran of the Clinton White House and of Hillary’s 2008 campaign.
According to Lewis, discussions over the structuring of a future Hillary campaign are “way early.”
But “I’m very high on both of them,” Lewis said of the pair. “They’re very good. They have real talent and they know the community, both of which are enormously helpful.”
Rachel Schneider, Jewish Americans director for Ready for Hillary, also praised the two founders as “experienced, knowledgeable and well-connected in politics.”
“We are thankful for their support,” Schneider said, “and their ongoing efforts to help mobilize Jewish Americans as an important component of the Ready for Hillary movement.”
Discussing the race, neither says they envision fierce debate in the Democratic primary over Israel, or over issues of unique concern to the American Jewish community.
The general election is a different matter entirely.
“There’s going to be vicious partisan attacks that try to discredit her,” Rabinowitz said.
“We’ll see all the Suha Arafat crap, and settlement policy, and everything from her time at State and from anything that people didn’t like about Bill Clinton – it’s going to all come back, except with millions of dollars behind it.”
“Not just Sheldon Adelson millions,” he added. “Millions of partisan dollars.”
Separate from their enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton, the firm is already orchestrating events and coverage unrelated to the politics of the day. Last week, Bluelight helped organize an American Jewish Committee solidarity event for DC’s Jewish community after the Paris terrorist attacks, attended by the French ambassador and the White House chief of staff. Last month, they launched a mobile app for the Rabbinical Assembly full of new prayers that hadn’t before existed – prayers for when you first take your child to school,​ put a parent in the care of a nursing home, fight with a spouse.
“We only accept clients with which we agree ideologically,” Keyak said. “The range and the excitement is part of what brought me to it.”
In a statement from her staff, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) said Rabinowitz’s decision to merge with Keyak was a “smart move” that will bring “great energy” to the venture.
Both Keyak and Rabinowitz expressed admiration for other prospective candidates in the Democratic field, noting that, while they love Vice President Joe Biden, they love Hillary more.
“Sign us up,” Rabinowitz said. “We’re ready to go.”