PRINCETON: Nassau Hall hires ex-Obama Administration official


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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
In the age of Trump, Princeton University has turned to a veteran of the Obama administration with deep ties to Democratic politics to oversee its communications, federal lobbying and government relations offices.
Brent Colburn was named the next vice president for communications and public affairs, due to assume that responsibility Feb. 1, the university said this week in announcing the appointment. He will fill the job held by Robert K. Durkee, a fixture in Nassau Hall who had been juggling that and his duties as vice president and secretary.
Colburn, who was not giving interviews, assumes responsibility for divisions of the university in charge of managing Nassau Hall’s public image and dealings with government, including the federal government.
Though he has no background in higher education, Colburn is no stranger to Washington D.C. or Capitol Hill politics.
He’s worked at the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, among other stops. On the political side, he has worked for Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-New York), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), and President Barack Obama, including serving as his national communications director on his 2012 re-election campaign.
Colburn comes to Princeton from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the nonprofit that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan started, as vice president of communications, in San Francisco.
“Can’t wait to get to Princeton and get to work,” Colburn wrote on his Twitter account Nov. 21 in adding he was “excited for this new challenge.”
The university indicated that Colburn had stopped being active in politics “professionally” since leaving the Obama administration in 2015. The website Politico, in a story from August of this year about former Obama administration officials getting active politically to run for Congress in the wake of President Donald J. Trump’s election, reported how Colburn was the host of “candidate meet-and-greets.”
“Even those of us who aren’t running are looking for ways we can give back and support the legacy of the president (Obama), so you’re not only seeing more people likely to run, but there’s also more of us who are more likely to hold fundraisers, host events for candidates and connect people to contacts in our network,” he was quoted in the article as saying.
“He will continue to support candidates as any private citizen would,” Princeton spokesman Dan Day said by email Wednesday. “He will not be doing any political work professionally.”
Colburn, 41, whose first name is Christopher, is a 1998 graduate of the College of William & Mary; he also earned a master’s in public policy from there, in 2000. That year, he worked on the presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore, the first of four consecutive presidential races he has been a part of — all for Democrats.
Among his duties for Nassau Hall will be to oversee the university’s Washington lobbying office that deals with the federal government, this at a time when Congress is looking to tax college endowments, something that Princeton, home to a more than $20 billion endowment and recently revealed to be among other colleges with off-shore investments, is opposed to. The university, which has battled the Trump administration over immigration and other policies, deflected a question on whether it brought in a Democrat to be a counterweight to the Republican administration.
“Brent’s talent, energy, and values are impressive, and I believe that he will be a spectacular colleague for all of us at Princeton,” said University President Christopher L. Eisgruber in a statement.
Colburn will be a part of a 24-member-cabinet, which will consist of 11 men and 13 women when he takes office in February. Of that total, 17 members are white, including Eisgruber, three are Asian and the rest are other races, according to the university.

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