Alan Hoffman Class of '91
Sidekick to the V.P.
The day the House of Representatives passed health-care reform, Alan Hoffman, MPA/JD ’91, couldn’t help but notice that the sun was out, the skies were blue and cherry blossoms were just beginning to flower in Washington, D.C. “It was a gorgeous day and we had something amazing to celebrate,” says Hoffman, deputy chief of staff to Vice President Joseph Biden.
Hoffman watched the historic health-care vote from the White House Roosevelt Room with President Obama, Biden and dozens of their close aides. Later that evening, Obama invited the group to the Truman Balcony for a toast.
“I’ve been given an unbelievable window seat on the making of history,” says Hoffman. “Did I ever think I would be working for the vice president in the White House? Not a chance. But either government service is in your blood or it’s not. It just happens to be in my blood.”
Two years after graduating, Hoffman got his first Washington, D.C., job working with Hillary Clinton on health-care reform. He never imagined he would be working on health care again some 17 years later.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work in government and work for the American people in areas that I’m passionate about,” says Hoffman. “My law degree and my public administration degree from USC prepared me for the road ahead. USC really gave me the ability to obtain a footing in public service.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Hoffman, who joined Biden in Washington shortly after Biden dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination. After serving twice as chief of staff to Sen. Biden, Hoffman thought he had left politics for good after Biden’s last campaign. But when Biden was tapped as Obama’s running mate, Hoffman got a call asking him to come back to Washington. “I know the vice president and I understand him - he’s a mentor and a good friend,” says Hoffman. “I couldn’t say no to him.”
As deputy chief of staff, Hoffman manages the daily operations of Biden’s office, focusing on administration, the legislative agenda and outreach. “I oversee the day-to-day management of the vice president’s office, our outreach to Congress, outreach to local and state officials, public interest groups and trade associations,” he says. “I also oversee the vice president’s political activities.”
After reading three newspapers each morning, Hoffman is briefed about important developments by his staff. He also travels with Biden everywhere - whether it’s to California, New Mexico or Florida.
Biden has described Hoffman as having a “sharp political sense, a keen sense of timing, a sense of what makes people tick and a sense of humor.”
In addition to health care, Hoffman is working on numerous other issues, including closing the sentencing disparity between those prosecuted for selling powder cocaine versus crack cocaine.
“I’m a former prosecutor and I believe in law enforcement, but we need to be fair and just,” says Hoffman. “My law degree gave me a greater perspective on all the different elements necessary to pass legislation, and on the implications for our society. My master’s in public administration gave me insight into what it means to work in the public sector and the challenges that happen.”
“I always had a penchant for working in public service,” he adds. “It’s a great way to give back and effect change. I’m one of those guys who wakes up in the morning and opens the newspapers and gets outraged about social injustice. To do something about it from time to time gives me the greatest level of satisfaction.”