Steve Ricchetti is Biden’s right-hand man in Senate
Steve Ricchetti’s fingerprints are everywhere these days.
Ricchetti, a key player in President Biden’s inner circle who serves as a senior adviser to the White House, was a crucial player in talks on the infrastructure deal, spending hours in a head-to-head meeting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to clinch the agreement.
The White House now is on the precipice of a big win in the Senate, and Ricchetti, who spends a good part of his weekends working the phones to lawmakers about the president’s priorities, will be a big part of it.
In more than a dozen interviews with White House allies and those who have worked alongside Ricchetti, sources recount tales of a keen listener, strategist and an able negotiator who knows how to lure adversaries to the table.
“He is willing to listen. He’s willing to put in the time. He’s very gracious and treats others that he disagrees with respect,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). “Let’s you know where he stands. Very clear that he’s representing the president. He doesn’t try and intrude with his own opinion, instead represents the president’s views.
“But he’s good to work with because you know exactly where you stand. There’s no funny business.”
Sources say Ricchetti’s work for Biden goes well beyond the big bipartisan deal.
They say he’s had a influential role in the appointment of ambassadorships, and major donors are known to have a direct line to him.
A creature of Washington for decades, Ricchetti, 63, was a Senate liaison during the Clinton administration, frequently huddling with senators and their aides to figure out how to appease all sides.
A father of four and a native of the Cleveland area, Ricchetti is known as “Stevie” to others in Biden’s inner circle. He’s become one of the president’s closest confidants since joining the vice president’s office in 2012. After Biden left office, he also served as a business manager of sorts, negotiating Biden’s hefty book deal for “Promise Me, Dad” and planning his book tour.
He is the yin to the yang of another trusted Biden adviser, the soft-spoken Mike Donilon, who only chimes in when he has something to say, those in the president’s orbit say. Ricchetti, who is chatty, loud and a bit high-pitched at times, is known as “the closer” in Democratic circles.
“Ricchetti starts the process and ends the process. He’s the guy who handles it on both ends. What you’re actually seeing here is a ‘West Wing’ episode. Steve Ricchetti is the Josh Lyman. He comes in and he’s great at it. He knows the Hill and he knows the people and he knows the policy positions better than anyone,” a former Democratic Senate staffer said.
Romney credited Ricchetti and Brian Deese, Biden’s economic adviser, with helping move the infrastructure negotiations along when it came to revenue sources, which had stalled the talks. The two men, Romney said, “came up with some ideas that we didn’t have on the table yet.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said the senior White House adviser “kept us on track, offered helpful suggestions and was available” throughout the negotiation process on infrastructure.
“What impressed me the most is that he knew a lot about a lot of issues,” Tester said.
Ricchetti also has power, sources say, because when he speaks, they know the president as his back.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said that when Ricchetti — who is one of the few advisers who has walk-in privileges in the Oval Office — “made a commitment on behalf of the president, he was sure to have the president’s support.”
Fred Turner, former chief of staff to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and now senior vice president at BGR Group, noted that Ricchetti is not new to Washington, D.C., and that makes him someone senators on both sides of the aisle can trust.
“I think Steve is pretty unusual and pretty unusual in just the right ways. When the president needs to get something done, he can trust Steve, and when U.S. senators can’t talk to the president for whatever reason, they know when you’re talking to Steve Ricchetti they might as well be talking to the president of the United States, and that’s pretty unusual,” Turner said.
Ricchetti co-founded Ricchetti Inc. with his brother, Jeff, in 2001. While he has not been registered to lobby since before the Obama administration, Jeff has enjoyed success during the Biden administration. He recently lobbied the National Security Council on behalf of General Motors in the second quarter of 2021. The automaker paid him $60,000 to lobby the National Security Council on “issues related to China.”
His interactions with the White House are closely watched and scrutinized, but the Ricchetti brothers have worked to create distance in their professional lives, and Jeff has said he does not lobby his brother.
“Steve pays attention to what people say and what they need politically,” said one Democrat who has known the White House adviser and strategist for years. “His default is to get along with people, much like the president. He doesn’t see politics as a zero sum game.
Biden in general has taken a more active approach with the Senate than either former President Trump or former President Obama, befitting a White House whose chief executive served more than three decades in the chamber. Ricchetti is a key part of the effort.
“Biden has been calling into the caucus lunch in the last six months. I don’t think Obama ever did that. Both Democratic senators and Republican senators have said he just calls and you talk. With Obama, they were scheduled calls and he was going to yell at you,” the former staffer turned lobbyist said.
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