Doug Thornell: 40 Under 40 2015

MD, SKDKnickerbocker

When it comes to the public affairs sphere, Doug Thornell knows the Beltway like few others. He has led communications for a number of top Democrats and causes, including as traveling press secretary for the Howard Dean presidential campaign and two years as national press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in an election year when the party gained 24 seats.

He started his Capitol Hill career as a press aide to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro after a stint as an organizer for Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign. Later, he became one of the youngest staffers to serve as communications director and speechwriter for the Congressional Black Caucus.

Following his DCCC post, Thornell joined Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as a senior adviser and top communications executive during the early years of the Obama White House. With Van Hollen, the ranking member for the House Budget Committee, Thornell had a front-row seat to a number of high-profile reforms, including the Affordable Care Act and the fallout from Citizens United.

Those years in the throes of high-intensity political campaigns serve him well as an MD charged with building out SKDKnickerbocker’s public affairs practice.

"Doug is a rare agency pro," says Kelley McCormick, fellow MD at the firm. "He has taken every experience he gained on the campaign trail and in the halls of Congress and converted that into strong, actionable counsel for his clients."

In four years, he’s worked on some of the agency’s biggest accounts, including multiple political campaigns and leading energy and tech companies. He’s one of the firm’s media trainers, working with CEOs, political candidates, and nonprofit heads to hone their press appearances, and he recently launched the firm’s Beyond the Beltway Insights initiative, a joint public polling project with Benenson Strategy Group. Late last year he was promoted, becoming the firm’s youngest MD.

"He is deeply appreciated, not only for his professional talents, but also his leadership within the firm," says McCormick.

Thornell is a regular on the cable news circuit, making appearances on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. As an opinion leader, he frequently appears in national and Washington-focused publications, including the National Journal.

- He’s an active board member for the Sidwell Friends School Alumni Association and Stone Soup Films, a nonprofit that produces pro bono films for other nonprofits  

- Thornell played varsity football as an undergrad at Cornell University

- Outside of work, Thornell regularly competes in endurance and obstacle course races, enjoys photography, boating, fishing, and spending time with his fiancee and dog

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