josephJoseph Rodota

Founder and CEO

Joe Rodota is a seasoned government executive and political strategist with a record of accomplishment in government and in presidential, federal, state and local campaigns nationwide.

As CEO of Forward Observer, Joe has played a key role in a number of successful advocacy and communications initiatives at the state and national levels, including: passage of Proposition 14 establishing a nonpartisan primary system in California in 2010; passage of historic groundwater management legislation in 2014, the most significant water-related legislation in California since the 1970s; and adoption of a funding plan for California's high-speed rail network. 

Prior to founding Forward Observer, Joe served as Director of Policy and Research for Arnold Schwarzenegger during California’s tumultuous 2003 recall election. In just 30 days, he assembled a policy staff of more than 50 paid and volunteer experts, produced two policy summits, and generated a half-dozen major policy platforms. Newsweek magazine dubbed this effort “Schwarzenegger University.” Following Schwarzenegger’s victory, Joe directed the Governor-elect’s economic policy transition team, served as an appointee to a government efficiency commission, and was a senior consultant to Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign.

During an earlier stint in California politics, Joe served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Cabinet Secretary to former California Governor Pete Wilson, overseeing day-to-day operations, policy development, and federal relations for the 13 cabinet agencies of the nation’s most populous state. He was a top consultant to Governor Wilson’s 1990 campaign and served as senior counselor for policy in the 1994 re-election campaign.

In the Reagan Administration, Joe served as Deputy Director of Public Affairs in the White House, managing the "talking points" program for Administration appointees, preparing the President's domestic and economic media briefings, and managing a staff of researchers and writers. Prior to joining the White House staff, Joe served as a policy and communications aide in three federal agencies (Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Education), as a domestic policy analyst at the Republican National Committee, and as an analyst with the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Joe was founder and president of Benchmark Research Group, the nation's first full-service political and public affairs research firm. Clients of the firm included candidate and ballot initiative campaigns in multiple states.

Joe is a graduate of Stanford University in history, with honors and distinction.

He is the author of CHESSMAN, a play about the 1960 execution of Caryl Chessman, the most famous Death Row prisoner in the world at the time. His book THE WATERGATE, a history of the iconic complex and its most famous residents, will be published in 2018 by William Morrow. 

He speaks on political research, public policy, ballot initiative strategy and tactics, and the role of content in corporate communications. He has been quoted by The Economist, The New York Times and National Public Radio and serves as a contributor to the Huffington Post and other publications. 

Joe serves on the board of the Crocker Art Museum; the Christopher Isherwood Foundation; and Sakuramento, which celebrates Sacramento's connection to its Japanese heritage.