Amy Klobuchar Staffers Describe a Hostile, Dehumanizing Boss

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Amy Klobuchar Staffers Describe a Hostile, Dehumanizing Boss

Minnesota senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar’s temper is something of legend on Capitol Hill. Last year, she was named one of the “Worst Bosses in Congress” by Politico after a survey showed that from 2001-2016, she had far-and-away the highest annual staff turnover rates in the Senate. Although highly popular in her home state, Klobuchar’s reputation for behind-closed-doors volatility precedes her, and an article in today’s New York Times details some such allegations at length.

A particularly Iannuccian anecdote that’s been raising eyebrows has an assistant hustling through a crowded airport terminal to fetch the senator a salad, losing the plasticware somewhere along the way before boarding. After a first-class dressing-down of the insufficient aide, Klobuchar works around his faults by eating her salad with a comb from her bag before then giving said comb to her assistant, and demanding it be cleaned for her.

Others allege everything from the hurling of binders to public humiliation. Some tell of the senator’s paranoia: She feared sabotage from her own team and threatened departing staffers with opportunity-knocking in the face of betrayal. It’s also evident that Klobuchar obsessed over media snubs and trivial Twitter matters, e-mailing her staff about the subject: “We are becoming a joke, and it is making me a joke.” In one particularly stinging jab, Klobuchar tells a staffer, “I would trade three of you for a bottle of water.”

New e-mail snippets reveal a bitter boss, constantly disappointed in her staff and making it painfully clear. But those well-acquainted with the senator will find the article old hat: There have been pieces from The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed News and New York Magazine that have painted a far worse picture of the Klobuchar HQ. Something as minor as the failure to charge her iPad for her, or the use of staples instead of paper clips could result in being pelted with a binder or leaving the office in tears.

Beyond the petty and pejorative, mistreatments extended to parental leave policies, Per the Times:

Among other concerns, her office’s paid parental leave policy has been described as unusual on Capitol Hill. Two people familiar with the policy said that those who took paid leave were effectively required, once they returned, to remain with the office for three times as many weeks as they had been gone. The policy, outlined in an employee handbook, called for those who left anyway to pay back money earned during the weeks they were on leave.

Some staffers, however, went to bat for their horrible boss. They allege that in spite of her temper, she remains a warm and funny superior whose attitude has never interfered with her ability to serve her constituency as a pragmatic bipartisan. Others fondly remember the “misery-loves-company camaraderie” created under her purview.

Nonetheless, these allegations are extensive and well-documented. The senator addressed them herself at a recent CNN forum: “Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes. Have I pushed people too hard? Yes.” But ultimately, the senator and her camp have dismissed many of the reports as anonymous or sensational, and deflected by citing “the countless experiences of people on the senator’s team who she has been so proud to work with.”

As more candidates enter the 2020 race, voters will have to decide whether Klobuchar’s behavioral issues should be disqualifying. Some are already attempting to dismiss these allegations against the senator, citing sexism and gender-reversal what-ifs: “If Amy Klobuchar were Andrew Klobuchar, this wouldn’t be a story.” That may very well be the case, and sexism certainly will play a part in how this story is covered. But pointing to such a substantive cultural failure isn’t the reason why this story shouldn’t be told, it’s the reason it needs to be: We have to work toward zero-tolerance of abuse by the powerful, regardless of identity.