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The White House Office of Public Liaison


Joseph A. Pika is the James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. His research concentrates on the American presidency, Delaware politics, and education policy. He has published Politics of the Presidency (7th ed., with John Maltese, CQ Press) and Confrontation and Compromise: Presidential and Congressional Leadership, 2001-2006 (with Jason Mycoff, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).


The Office of Public Liaison has been a specialized unit of the White House staff since the Gerald Ford administration, though the basic features of the staff assignment can be traced to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The OPL has helped presidents achieve their goals in multiple ways: to mobilize public support for presidential initiatives in order to sell programs to Congress; to factor groups' views into White House policy making; and to serve as an adjunct to the reelection campaign. The unit also has provided symbolic representation for groups in the White House, helping them with “casework” and interpreting their policy positions and internal group politics to administration decision makers. Within the White House, the OPL staff has operated within different systems of reporting and coordination, but the generic roles played by the staff members tend to be similar across administrations, as are the strategic design choices that administrations must make.