Does Amy Klobuchar Really Eat Salad With Her Comb and Ruin the Careers of Staffers Who Leave Her?

Amy Klobuchar--Caricature by DonkeyHotey, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Amy Klobuchar–Caricature by DonkeyHotey, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

I’m sort of puzzled by the boomlet accompanying an Amy Klobuchar candidacy. She’s been a fairly low-profile and undistinguished senator whose biggest selling point seems to be “the six people who know her really like her.” Whatever it is, some Democrats are taking her presence in the primary horserace seriously enough that the have been carpet bombing that one unique selling proposition she has which is that she is “Minnesota nice.”

First, we heard that she threw temper tantrums, berated staff, and even committed what would be called “assault and battery” if you did it in a non-Senate workplace.

A number of former staffers — both male and female — describe a workplace environment governed by fear and dread, one in which Klobuchar treated her Capitol Hill staffers with cruelty and humiliation, while fixating on seemingly minor issues. A minor mistake in an internal document, for example, could lead to a “multi-day affair,” one former staffer said. Like other Klobuchar alumni, she described haranguing late-night phone calls and critical emails written in all caps, sometimes sent in quick succession.

Klobuchar has one of the highest rates of staff turnover in Congress, according to congressional research site LegiStorm. Last year, that led to Politico calling her one of “the worst bosses” in Congress. And though Klobuchar’s alleged mistreatment has been an open secret in Washington for years, it had also gone largely unmentioned in press reports. That changed last week, when HuffPost — which, like Yahoo News, is part of Verizon Media — published a report that said that Klobuchar’s reputation had hindered her in hiring a campaign manager.

Klobuchar’s temperament could be her greatest weakness, according to detailed descriptions of working for the senator provided by five employees. They describe office objects thrown, sometimes directly at other people, as well as outbursts over seemingly inconsequential matters.

Then we heard about her eating habits:

Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience.

An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it.

And we heard about her vindictiveness:

But on a number of occasions, when her staffers have sought to land bigger and better jobs, Klobuchar has acted as their biggest obstacle. The senator is well known on Capitol Hill for calling prospective employers in an attempt to shut new job opportunities down — including at least one opportunity with the Obama administration.

Accounts of Klobuchar trying to thwart job-seekers come from half a dozen Capitol Hill staffers and former Klobuchar employees, all of whom requested anonymity.

In one instance, Klobuchar went so far as to confront a fellow Democrat in Congress who had offered a job to one of Klobuchar’s staffers to express her extreme displeasure and try to interfere with the hiring process, said a source with knowledge of their conversation. The member held their ground and the staffer ultimately made the jump.

On another occasion, Klobuchar blocked Obama’s Treasury Department from hiring one of her longtime aides. It’s common courtesy in Washington for the White House to ask senators of the same political party for their blessing before hiring their legislative staff. But instances of senators refusing are not common. The staffer in question was a finalist for a coveted job and “pissed” when Klobuchar refused to sign off, a source said.

For years I’ve heard speeches and read business journal articles on how women bosses were making the workplace more employee- and family-friendly. If I had a bullsh** flag handy, I’d throw it. I’ve worked for men and women in fairly important jobs and while the women were not *quite* as bad as Klobuchar, the behavior described in the stories is easily recognizable and very believable. Do you really think a male boss could get away with throwing stuff at you? No. You’d dot his eyes for him and wave cheerily as you were being escorted from the building by security? The vindictiveness of trying to sandbag staff applying for new jobs, directly or indirectly, is some common with women bosses I’ve worked around that I’d consider one of them not doing it to be something worthy of a cover story in Forbes. I think the big difference between male and female sociopaths in management is that the males can at least pretend to have empathy.

Having said that, I don’t really care. If being close to perceived power means taking that kind of bullsh** from an unaccomplished and irrelevant senator, then you deserve 100% of what you get.

Where this will get interesting is if Klobuchar is blowing a gasket over some intern f***ing up a press release for Minnesota Clean Panties Day, or something really important like that, then she’s going to stroke out during a high pressure campaign. In the initial stages of the primary, anyone who can get a job with a real candidate will do so and Klobuchar will be left with C- and D-list grifters as senior staff. The screw-ups will be many. The explosions and the behind-the-scenes tantrum stories will be epic.

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