How Two Hillary Clinton Superfans Became Super-PAC Power Players
Meet the unlikely duo who hatched Hillary's shadow presidential campaign.
He's a 28-year-old reserve police officer completing a bachelor's degree in criminology at Virginia's George Mason University. She's a 62-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt scholar and history professor at George Washington University in DC. Adam Parkhomenko and Allida Black are unlikely friends; they are the even unlikelier masterminds of Ready for Hillary, a super-PAC that has risen from ragtag origins to become a central component of Hillary Clinton's shadow presidential campaign-in-waiting.
Parkhomenko and Black fall well outside the Clintons' rarefied inner circle of advisers, consultants, fundraisers, and confidantes. Both are Hillary superfans who until very recently were political neophytes. Yet since cofounding Ready for Hillary in January 2013, they've managed to raise $4 million, which they are channeling into building a massive database of supporters and volunteers that will become the foundation for Clinton's presidential run if she jumps into the race. (Within the Ready for Hillary world, there's little doubt that leap will come.) Parkhomenko and Black have also attracted key Clinton aides and allies to their super-PAC and thus have obtained the unofficial blessing of the Clintons themselves. These two groupies have worked their way backstage to hang out with the band.
Parkhomenko and Black first met in 2003 at a Halloween party hosted by Jim Turpin, then-chair of the Arlington County Democrats in Virginia. Parkhomenko was a 17-year-old community college student then, but he was already a Hillary Clinton crusader. That fall, he had created a website, VoteHillary.org, featuring a petition urging Clinton to enter the 2004 presidential campaign. It garnered over 100,000 signatures.
"I liked him," Black recalls of that first encounter, "because he pushed back with confidence and not with arrogance, which for a 17-year-old is a stunning feat." The two established a close rapport, even though Black found his notion of online organizing a tad naive. "She's been one of my best friends since I met her," Parkhomenko says. "We clicked."
Parkhomenko's online campaign failed to sway Clinton, but the effort got him noticed. He earned a Washington Post Magazine profile from Mark Leibovich. A framed copy signed by Clinton ("Adam—Thanks for believing!") now hangs in Parkhomenko's Ready for Hillary office.
Parkohmenko's pro-Hillary fervor also drew attention from Hill PAC, Clinton's political action committee. In December 2003, the group reached out to ask if he wanted to volunteer for the PAC. He accepted the invitation, put his community college classes on hold—"Hillary would always ask about school, just as much as my mom," he says—and soon worked his way up to full-time staffer.
Hill PAC was a small operation, merely four or five employees, and Parkhomenko split his time between the PAC and Friends of Hillary, Clinton's Senate reelection committee. He worked advance for Clinton events, wrote thank-you notes, and handled scheduling. He had been brought in by Patti Solis Doyle, a longtime Clinton hand—she worked as Hillary's scheduler in 1992—who oversaw the PAC and the election committee. Solis Doyle referred to Parkhomenko as her "chief of stuff."
When Clinton announced her bid for the presidency in 2007, Solis Doyle was tapped as her campaign manager. Parkhomenko became Solis Doyle's assistant—the gatekeeper to the gatekeeper of the presidential candidate. Parkhomenko was known throughout the campaign as Solis Doyle's right hand, which came back to bite him when Solis Doyle was fired in early 2008. Solis Doyle exited the campaign in February and Parkhomenko left soon thereafter. He was 22 years old.
Parkhomenko couldn't quite shake the Hillary bug. He created another pro-Hillary website that spring, VoteBoth.com, to encourage Clinton supporters to goad Obama into picking Clinton as his running mate. After that failed, Parkhomenko took a break from politics. He reenrolled at Northern Virginia Community College in the fall of 2008 and became a reserve police officer in Washington, DC. But he quickly returned to the political fold. In 2009, he ran for an open House of Delegates seat in Arlington, ultimately finishing third in a five-way race. After that, he buckled down on completing his college degree, later transferring from community college to George Mason University.
Though he lost touch with his old Clinton coworkers, Black and Parkhomenko remained close. He had moved into her spare bedroom during the 2008 presidential campaign after Black insisted that he not waste money on rent while living on a campaign staffer's salary.