Snapchat’s Latest Hire, Richard Stengel, Is the Latest Obama Alum Heading for Silicon Valley

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By Heat Street Staff | 5:00 am, January 10, 2017

Cashing in on government service is also a progressive activity.

Rick Stengel, whose Twitter profile reads “Longest serving Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in American history” has joined Snapchat as a Senior Advisor, the company has confirmed to Heat Street.

Stengel is the latest official from the Obama orbit to leverage expertise and government service in Silicon Valley. He joins former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe who went to Uber, Attorney General Eric Holder at Airbnb (before he took the job as anti-Trump lawyer for the state of California), and EPA head Lisa Jackson who joined Apple. Dozens of others Obama officials with progressive views have joined the tech sector for what are often described as jobs to help change the world.

An unusually pointed article from CNN likened it to “American expats hanging out in Paris after World War One.” An analogy which seems to connote frolicking, collecting checks sent from afar, and thinking big thoughts until the party comes to a crashing end.

But there is utility in all this, or the perception there of. If you’re Evan Spiegel, Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick, or their major investors… what really keeps you up at night? Missing the next wave of innovation coming to eat your lunch is at the top of the list. The government and the image of your brand is not too bar behind.

Indeed there is a gap between the skill set to create billions of dollars in tech and the know-how to keep government and the media from screwing it up. Enter the parade of former officials.

Perhaps ironically, liberals such as Stengel, who was formerly the Editor of Time and CEO of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, are often seen as some sort of rear-guard defense against the corporate liability posed by even defanged regulators or a cowed media.

Like any good multi-billion dollar social platform, Snapchat is dealing with questions of privacy, public safety, and what it does with user data. In many ways these companies have flourished because there were few government regulations to restrain their innovation.

The companies may indeed be changing the world. The jobs are, of course, about money.

Great work, if you can get it.