The world of politics, public relations, and communications are embedded in all of our lives. Lesley Israel has had one of the most extensive and decorated careers in politics and communications in recent decades. She consistently helped bring her political clients campaigns to fruition, but beyond that, created a legacy that we all could be inspired by when it comes to working hard to make a true lasting impact on the world we live in.
Lesley Israel is a retired political consultant, public relations leader, and successful business leader who’s utilized her multitude of roles in Washington to lift up others voices, and create a space for change.
Her career was long and extensive, and even though she’s retired today, she continues to offer her expertise to others who are either entering into the political sphere, or are just looking for some inspiration on how to be successful, but most importantly, love what you do so you lead everyday with passion.
Israel’s parents were both journalists, so she was raised in the world of politics and communications. Political journalism is such a fast-paced intense sector of communications that’s integral for the public and their knowledge of the US government. As she grew older, Israel wanted to dive head first into that chaos and be a part of it.
When Israel’s two kids grew older, she decided to really embrace the skills she acquired growing up and get into the sphere of politics, communications, and public relations.
“I started working on some campaigns and volunteering before leading into making my own political consulting firm. I truly loved all of it, it was so much fun.”
For Lesley, from the beginning it never felt like work. She reflected about how fun it truly was more than anything else. One could accredit this to her upbringing and the fact that she grew up in that world gaining interpersonal political skills, however, when a passionate individual finds a professional path that gives them the opportunity to utilize their strengths for the greater good, how could they not have fun.
Israel first served as the director of media for Humphrey for President from 1966 to 1967 and again in 1972. She also served as the director of scheduling for Bayh for President in 1971, as well as special assistant for Jackson for President in 1975 and 1976, and served as a coordinator of national labor for Kennedy for President from 1979 to 1980.
By 1981, Israel had moved into the role of senior vice president for Kamber Group in Washington.
The Kamber Group was a PR consulting firm that mainly represented labor unions, which involved a lot of politics and political figures. Eventually, Israel and her partners at the firm realized if they were going to fully embrace representing politics, they needed a separate organization that would have a heavier focus on candidates and their message, which is how Politics Inc. was formed.
While Politics Inc. is no longer in business, the work they did made a lasting impact. Here, Israel also had a lot more control over who and how they represented political clients.
According to Israel’s personal website, Politics Inc. was a full-service political consulting firm that worked extensively in local, congressional, and statewide races nationwide. She served on the national presidential campaign staff for Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Birch Bayh, and Teddy Kennedy.
The clients taken on at Politics Inc knew that Israel would be able to take care of getting their messages out into the world through radio, television, and general advertising through the public relations channel.
Israel was also working on the PR side of campaigns during a time where advertising and technology was constantly changing. Newspaper, radio, television, and eventually the internet are all very different mediums when it comes to campaigning, however, when the political message is clear, it transcends all forms, which is why Israel was so successful with her consulting firm, she was an expert at formulating a campaign’s message in the clearest way possible.
Candidates and political individuals would reach out and know that they could trust Politics Inc. to handle spreading the word of their campaign. Her experience in the world of public relations and communications gave her a very specific set of skills that were able to be honed in and utilized through her work in politics.
“We helped politicians not only spread the word of their campaign message, but develop it. We wanted to make their personalities and campaigns as polished as possible so that we could give voters the clearest image of the candidate in front of them.”
Working on advertising campaigns allowed Israel to embrace her creativity with great purpose. She worked in all mediums of advertising for her clients, and ensured that all bases were covered when it came to campaigning, formulating a politician’s campaign and communicating it to the world in a way that’s clear and engaging.
Within all PR firms, one of the aspects many don’t think about is how people like Israel are also helping their clients individually, not just through advertising. She discussed how they would also have to work directly with their clients to help them understand exactly what their message is and how to deliver it to the public in a way that’s engaging, captivating, and understandable while also ensuring it’s exactly what the campaign is about.
Israel worked on the heart of endless campaigns. She was surrounded by amazing producers who handled the intricacies of bringing a political campaign into advertising, but without Israel’s role of formulating the message of the politician, the campaign would be lost.
In politics, a candidate is nothing without a clear cut message. Voters want to see and feel the beliefs of the individual they’re potentially voting for. At Politics Inc. Israel was able to not only bring those messages to voters, but she brought them to life in the first place.
“I actually worked in politics at two different levels. I worked in the United States on political campaigns, whether they were presidential campaigns or congressional campaigns that were clients of ours, but I also started doing a lot of international democracy at one point. So I would go overseas and help organize elections in emerging democracies, help write their election laws or just monitor their elections to make sure that they were legit,” she stated in an interview series Work That Matters.
Technically speaking, her work has expanded across multiple organizations and communities. According to her website, “Lesley served as both Treasurer and Director for the International Foundation for Election Systems. Lesley’s passion for her faith came to the forefront at this time more than perhaps any other. At the helm of the National Coalition Supporting Soviet Jewry she advocated for Jewish communities in countries of the former Soviet Union. She was able to watch countries and lives change in real time, as democracy took root in these places and not only changed countless lives, but saved many in the process. Lesley is an international democracy expert having worked on elections and election training in countries around the world for over twenty years, from Afghanistan to Zanzibar.
She’s also a member of the Presidential Commission on the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad, a former president of the Avalon Foundation, Director and Secretary of Bosnian Handicrafts, Director of Save a Child’s Heart, Vice President of the Cultural Exchange Foundation, an honorary life member and National Executive Committee member of the Anti-Defamation League, former board member at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and board member of Talbot Humane.”
Her work has expanded across multiple sectors of government and organizations that work to better preserve America’s history while uplifting initiatives that would better the nation.
In 2016, Lesley was appointed to the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad by President Barack Obama.
“I loved everything I did. I think it was for good. I didn’t think of it as using my power; I thought of it as using me, myself, my efforts to do what I thought was good and was necessary, not only for Washington but ultimately for the rest of the world.”
Currently, Lesley hosts Work That Matters, as mentioned above, a podcast that focuses on current events, socio political matters, as well as her own life and experiences as a political consultant, which she balanced with being a mother and wife.
Her podcast interview series also covered her 1990 recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women from Washington Magazine. This recognition was given for her multitude of roles and responsibilities in the political and communications world.
This wasn’t the only honor Israel received for her extensive roles in politics, communications, and beyond. She received a Special Service Award for her work by the Jewish Community Center earlier in her career, in 1984. Included in many editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Politics, Who’s Who in the East, and Who’s Who of American Women. However, according to Israel her biggest honor would be the fact that she’s been married for 56 years to Fred Israel, and together, they have two children and five grandchildren.
Israel is truly an inspiration to all of us for her hard work, passion, and dedication to always do more in general. She recently offered advice for young people hoping to get into the political world to make a change the way she did. Her main message is fueled with passion and determination, two qualities that helped her build her career to what it’s become:
“Get into it, do what you want to do, but cooperate with other people. Remember that there are a lot of people there who have been around a long time and know what they’re doing. Work with them, not against them. But do what really matters to you, and if you don’t believe in it, don’t do it. And if you don’t care about it, don’t do it.
But, do get yourself involved and look to see where the needs are, and do what the needs are. And they’re not the same today as they were then. In my day, we didn’t have the internet the way we’ve got it today, for instance. Just get in there and remember that you don’t play this game to make money. You’ll get paid for something, but you’re not going to get rich playing the game.”
To learn more about Lesley Israel’s amazing career, experiences, and advice that she has for the next generation, check out her website by clicking here!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.