Five Best: Books on Politics

Ken Mehlman shared his top 5 recommended books on politics with The Wall Street Journal in an article published February 28th, 2024.

Included in the list are:

  • What It Takes
    By Richard Ben Cramer (1992)
  • Moneyball
    By Michael Lewis (2003)
  • Dignity
    By Chris Arnade (2019)
  • The Big Sort
    By Bill Bishop (2008)
  • American Carnage
    By Tim Alberta (2019)

Read the full article and Ken’s rationale behind each pick in The Wall Street Journal.

Sen. Collins deserves credit for Respect for Marriage Act leadership

Writing in the Press Herald, Ken Mehlman discusses the months of hard work and compromise it took to secure bipartisan passage in both the Senate and the House. He lays much of the credit for the success of that work at Sen. Susan Collins’s doorstep- arguing that the Senator was a reliable and effective leader in support of this endeavor and many other endeavors like it.

He brings up the fact that, just as Maine has served as a national vanguard in LGBTQ rights, Collins herself has consistently worked to advance the causes of fairness and equal rights within the party of Lincoln.  In 2010 she led the bipartisan effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and in 2015 she was one of only two sitting GOP U.S. Senators to lend her name to an amicus brief of prominent Republicans and Conservatives circulated that called on the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex unions on a nationwide basis.

Yet few circumstances better illustrate her leadership in action than what transpired in with the Respect for Marriage Act.


Not only did Collins lead the push to enshrine marriage equality into federal law by authoring the bill, she also skillfully worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to orchestrate adoption of an amendment with explicicit protections for religious liberties.

This is despite the criticism that a small, yet vocal, minority leveled at her.

Achieving passage of such a significant piece of legislation, such as the Respect for Marriage Act, ultimately begins and ends with the people in the room. Sen. Collins’ can-do commitment and desire to bring congressional leaders to the table has become an essential component for major reform in the U.S. Senate. For that, Mainers, and all Americans, should be thankful for her leadership in making the Respect for Marriage Act a reality.

Read the full article here:

How senators ‘defied political gravity’ on same-sex marriage

Led by Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins- the campaign to find Republican votes in the Senate to protect same-sex and interracial marriages in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal right to an abortion was part of a monthslong bipartisan effort.

They found that attitudes have changed in the decade since many openly campaigned against gay marriage, partially because of the increasing numbers of people tied to Senators — daughters, sons, friends, staffers — were openly gay and in relationships and marriages. They found that one of the biggest hurdles was a concern over religious liberty and so crafted an amendment to help address that concern and in turn had dozens of religious groups announce their support of the bill.

But the work outside the Senate was as important as the work inside.

As the senators organized inside, groups of influential Republicans who were supportive organized on the outside. Key to that effort were Ken Mehlman, a former Republican National Committee chairman and campaign manager for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, and a group that he is funding, Centerline.

Focusing on senators in nine states, the group conducted state polls, drove local press coverage, organized telephone campaigns and put together more than 70 meetings with senators and staff. The group circulated a list of 430 prominent Republicans and conservatives who supported the legislation, including former senators and Cabinet officials.

Mehlman says the campaign was based on data and polling showing an increasing support for gay marriage. More than two-thirds of the public now supports the unions.

“Center-right voters are supportive of the freedom to marry, and those numbers have increased in recent years,” Mehlman says. “Voters are supportive and often ahead of politicians on these questions.”

Read the full article here:

Prominent Gay Republicans Helped Smooth the Way for Marriage Bill

The recent landmark legislation to mandate federal recognition for same-sex marriage in the Senate was not a spontaneous thing, but rather the result of a group of influential Republican donors and operatives, including some of the party’s most prominent gay leaders with long experience prodding their party to embrace L.G.B.T.Q. rights, who banded together with the bill’s proponents in Congress for a coordinated, $1.7 million campaign to persuade G.O.P. senators that backing it would give them a political edge.

According to the New York Times, that push was led by Ken Mehlman, President George W. Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay in 2010, and Centerline Action, a centrist nonprofit funded by him and Reginald Brown, a lawyer in Mr. Bush’s White House, among others.

Mr. Mehlman, working with Centerline, helped commission the polling in nine states where they identified Republican senators who could be persuaded to support the Respect for Marriage Act but who were publicly undecided: Alaska, Missouri, West Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Wyoming.


In Indiana, the data showed that one in four voters were much more likely to support a senator in support. In Iowa, the polling found, 76 percent of voters “are more likely to support a senator who votes for the R.M.A. or report no negative impact on their vote.”


The results were shared with the senators from those states and coordinated with a field campaign in which activists mobilized constituents to call their senators and express support for the measure. In total, the group patched through 30,000 advocacy calls from Republican constituents, hitting 16 Senate offices.


“In my experience, most important political decisions don’t get made just in Washington,” Mr. Mehlman said. “If you can take the pulse of the voters and congressional districts and mobilize activists and others, you’re going to be very persuasive.”


In the end, at least one senator from each of the states polled voted for the bill.


Susan Collins of Maine, who was the lead Republican negotiator in the Senate, credited Mr. Mehlman and the outside group’s efforts with helping to get her party over the finish line.


“It all helped shore up our supporters, and it certainly helped get us over the magic number of 10,” Ms. Collins said in an interview. “It made our supporters feel less alone, but it also played a critical role in getting us the margin. It gave Republicans who were on the bubble a sense of comfort.”

Read the full article here:

These bipartisan solutions can help ease America’s labor crisis

Ken Mehlman and Matt Sigelman, president of The Burning Glass Institute and chairman of Emsi Burning Glass, a leading labor market analytics firm, teamed up to discuss four key bipartisan solutions to keep America’s workforce competitive, skilled, and upwardly mobile in an article published by Fortune.

From the article:

Coming from our respective experience in politics, business, and labor market analytics, we see bipartisan possibility in making 2022 the Year of the American Worker, building the talent base America needs for global leadership while creating opportunities and equitable advancement for workers.

Smart public policy could ease pain points for employers, enhance opportunities for workers who have historically struggled to gain ground, and strengthen U.S. competitiveness in critical sectors.  On the other hand, if handled poorly, the current moment could cause America to fall behind economically, technologically, and even militarily.

Pursuing four areas of broad bipartisan appeal can enable us to deliver on this promise.

Read more about the challenges we face and our potential solutions here.

Ken Mehlman On the Fight for Equality

Ken Mehlman spoke with LinkedIn editor Devin Banerjee concerning the fight for equality, the value of lateral thinking, and why this year’s Pride Month was particularly significant. The conversation was published as part of the LinkedIn News series #OutOnLinkedIn in the bi-weekly series Human Capital.

Speaking on the significance of Pride Month in 2021, Mehlman states:

This year’s Pride Month is particularly notable because of the fact that it coincided with the establishment of a Juneteenth federal holiday. It seems to me that in both cases, we are celebrating the same underlying values: freedom, equality, opportunity, unity.

If we learned anything over the course of the last year, when many of us were shuttered in our homes, it ought to be to recognize how critical these values are.

You can read the full interview here:

‘That’s real progress’: KKR’s Ken Mehlman on the fight for equality, the value of thinking laterally, and why this month was particularly significant

Why Gay Rights Is a Republican Value

In The New York Times today, Ken Mehlman discussed why support of gay rights is support of freedom, a guiding principle of Conservative politics. His words follow a host of nearly 50 friend-of-the-court briefs signed and submitted to the Supreme Court by members of Congress, women’s rights groups, and businesses in three pending cases involving L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Mehlman writes:

The cases, which the court is likely to take up next session, consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, prohibits discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people. The signers reflect what a broad cross section of Americans overwhelmingly believe: Such discrimination is wrong.

…basic protections against job discrimination are fundamental to core American values of fairness.

Read the full article in The New York Times here:

Opinion | Why Gay Rights Is a Republican Value

KKR Backs Energy Savings Solutions with Investment in Singapore’s BBP

Leading global investment firm KKR announced an investment in Barghest Building Performance, a Singapore-based provider of energy savings solutions to Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems in commercial and industrial buildings. KKR will be investing up to S$45 million in the Company.

“Our Global Impact team is focused on investing behind companies whose core commercial product or service addresses global environmental or social challenges. BBP contributes solutions to two of the United Nations SDGs – Affordable and Clean Energy, and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure – with a business model meant to fundamentally change best practices for energy management. BBP’s motivation, as is ours, is to achieve meaningful and sustainable costs savings for customers directly alongside long-term and measurable environmental impacts for society,” said Robert Antablin and Ken Mehlman, Co-Heads of KKR Global Impact.

Ken Mehlman spoke with Bloomberg about the rise of impact investing and how investors can contribute to solving critical societal challenges:
Singapore Energy-Saving Firm Wins $33 Million KKR Investment – Bloomberg
Impact Investing, Fed Outlook, Bitcoin Value: Bloomberg Businessweek Radio

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Brain Trust Drawn From VC, Tech, and Traditional Philanthropy

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has brought together a diverse group of advisors and experts to collaborate on the advancement of medical science and learning technologies. In her article published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Megan O’Neil outlines the unique strengths and experience brought to the team by a few distinguished individuals. Ken Mehlman has the honor of working alongside these individuals to accomplish CZI’s mission of advancing human potential and promoting equality.

Ken Mehlman and Alan Beller Join SASB Board of Directors

Ken Mehlman and Alan BelleSustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) logor, Senior Counsel at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, have joined the Board of Directors of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB. SASB is a non-profit organization that provides sustainability accounting standards for publicly-listed corporations in the United States. Mehlman and Beller will serve a three-year term on the Board, effective June 2015.

As Global Head of Public Affairs at KKR, Ken Mehlman leads the Environmental Social Governance programs both for KKR and for the companies in its portfolio. Before he joined KKR, Mehlman led a bipartisan public policy and regulatory practice for global law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He also spent many years in national politics and government service.

“Thoroughly understanding the stakeholders impacted by our investments enhances bottom line value and mitigates risk,” Mehlman said. “The planet is only going to be saved at a profit, and the better we understand this connection through work like SASB’s, the smarter our decisions become.”

Mary Schapiro, Former Chair of the SEC and Vice Chair of the SASB Board of Directors, is glad to have Beller and Mehlman on SASB’s Board. “As leaders in their respective fields, Ken and Alan share expertise in helping businesses understand the material risk and opportunity linked to sustainability factors. Their leadership will be invaluable as SASB continues its work to make markets more transparent and efficient.”

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