The power of relationships

Center Grove graduate offered once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve on Trump campaign and in White House

By Nancy Price

Relationships often lead us to unexpected ventures in life. For a Center Grove native, these relationships led to an opportunity to work on President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Brad Rateike was introduced to politics in 2002 after graduating from Franklin College. He accepted a full-time job with the Brose McVey for Congress campaign. McVey was running in the 7th  Congressional District. “Some of the relationships I made during that time were critical and forever changed the course of my career in life,” he said.

Among those relationships included a future Indiana First Lady. When Rateike decided to join the Peace Corps in late 2003, a former finance director on the campaign named Janet Amos hosted a farewell party for him. She also introduced him to a friend who would become her future husband: Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. Before Rateike left for Uzbekistan he and Holcomb exchanged information so they could keep in touch.

The Holcombs stayed in touch with Rateike, mutually communicating their support for Republican Mitch Daniels, who was running for Indiana governor at that time. Holcomb would become Daniels’ deputy chief of staff and a 2008 campaign manager.

President Donald J. Trump welcomes Brad Rateike, former director of Congressional Communications, to the Oval Office on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, for a departure photo. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

When Rateike finished with the Peace Corps and returned to Indiana, Holcomb invited him to work in the press office for the governor, “though my technical boss was the press secretary, Jane Jankowski (a Center Grove area resident),” he said. “I learned the press/communications side of the job from Jane and learned the political side from Eric at night and on the weekends.”

Rateike worked for Gov. Daniels for five years before launching his own public relations agency, Bar Communications.

In 2016, Rateike attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to support the team and connect with others in Indiana and around the country, including his friend Marty Obst, now senior advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. “Marty came and saw me and said, ‘We need someone to be our go-to person in Trump Tower. We need someone we can trust. We know we can trust you. Will you help us?’

“I jokingly talked to my wife about it before, and she said, ‘If they call you, you should think about doing it because it’s only for 100 days,’” he recalled.

Rateike, VP Pence and Marty Obst, senior advisor to the VP, aboard Air Force 2 on Rateike’s last day on the White House staff in 2018. (Submitted photo)

“Brad and I met working in a governor’s office, so we began our relationship with an understanding of how opportunities can arise and how timing is sometimes out of your control,” said Lawren Mills, Brad’s wife. “It wasn’t necessarily Brad’s dream to work on a presidential campaign or in the White House, but when those opportunities presented themselves, he was prepared for them and able to say ‘yes’. We both knew working on the campaign would be a great opportunity, regardless of the outcome of the election.”

When Obst followed up with an official offer, Rateike asked how much time he had to prepare for the flight to New York. “He said, ‘I need you on a plane Sunday.’ This was a Friday. So 48 hours later I was on a plane.”

MISSION CONTROL

While at Trump Tower, Rateike coordinated interview requests as part of his job. “I was on mission control,” he said. “I was playing traffic cop but a higher-level traffic cop, knowing that everything you’re working on is on national TV every day. If you screw up, it gets magnified. It was amazing to see how hard it is every day to make it look easy.”

During the last 10 days of the campaign, he traveled to and from multiple cities with Trump and future Vice President Mike Pence. Rateike still assumed his time would be short-lived. “I appreciated (Trump’s) ‘unique style,’” he said with a laugh. “Very few people are undecided on him. He’s one of a kind, he’s larger than life and he’s been in the spotlight for his entire life.”

Rateike and then Senate candidate Eric Holcomb in the Carmel 4th of July parade in 2015. (Submitted photo)

After Trump’s surprising win, Rateike was asked to serve on the transition team for 10 weeks to help staffers in their new roles. But his job wasn’t finished yet. A few days before Christmas, his plans took a different turn after he was offered a job to continue working in communications for President Trump. “It came as no surprise to me when he was offered a position in the White House,” said Janet. “Not only is Brad very good at what he does, but his fun attitude would be an asset to any stressful, high burn-out atmosphere which the White House can easily become.”

“Brad’s ability to build a cohesive working group of individuals from multiple White House offices and Cabinet agencies was critical to our ability to be successful during that process,” added Adam Kennedy, former deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of Communications.

His once-in-a-lifetime opportunities included a trip to Jerusalem after Trump recognized Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel and ordered the US Embassy move. “What a powerful moment,” Rateike said.

In July 2018 Rateike made the decision to leave the White House with mixed emotions. “The minute it stops being special is when you know it’s time to go but it never stopped being special for me,” he said. “But my wife is here and that’s No. 1.”

Rateike with his niece Norah at the 2017 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. (Submitted photo)

Rateike continues to operate Bar Communications in Broad Ripple.

BRAD RATEIKE ON WORKING WITH…

President Donald Trump

“The amount of energy he has is unbelievable. Donald Trump will always by my president; he was the one I worked for and spent time around. He was always kind to me. “

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House Press Secretary

“Sarah was one of my favorites; she was incredibly kind to me. The way she balanced her role, her family … she was a real person.”

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House Communications Director

“When it comes to opening speeches that a new boss gives to the team that will go down as one of the most unique. The first time, he had us all in there, and reminded us that he had the president’s permission to fire us all. He said, ‘I have the president’s permission to take this team down to two people. Me and Sarah (Sanders).’ Most people were quaking in their boots.”