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Jon Henes, CEO of C Street Advisory Group. Photo: Matthew Starr, via C Street

A group of Vice President Kamala Harris' campaign veterans is launching a strategy firm to help CEOs avoid getting “canceled” and to advise companies how to respond to changing cultural norms before they're faced with a crisis.

Driving the news: C Street Advisory Group, led by CEO Jon Henes, a former national campaign finance chair for Harris’ presidential campaign, will draw on the group's broad political network to help corporate America diversify its workforce.

  • “Young people know the difference between genuine change and window dressing," Henes, a 20-year veteran of Kirkland & Ellis, tells Axios. "You have to understand your own organization and make real, systemic changes."
  • “Change can be scary, and in today’s world, fear can lead to inertia,” he said. “But inclusive leadership and inclusive change will lead to incredibly valuable, value-driven organizations.”

Why it matters: C Street is entering an emerging, competitive market with financing from Antara Capital, a hedge fund backed by Blackstone — a sign that big financial firms view the diversity field as a growing industry.

  • It will compete with traditional crisis management firms, as well as strategic consultancies such as Teneo (founded by former aides to President Clinton) and WestExec Advisors (which started with Obama veterans and served as a government-in-waiting for the Biden administration).

The big picture: Both public and private companies face pressure from their employees and outside investors to take positions on a variety of controversial social and political issues.

  • But there is also a risk of backlash for so-called “woke capitalism,” not to mention pressure campaigns such as what Major League Baseball endured after it moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia’s new laws that curbed voting access.

How it works: C Street plans to use diverse contacts in the business, legal, academic and political world to help CEOs and company boards make changes in their corporate culture and hiring practices.

  • The goal is to help immunize companies and top executives from the threat of “cancellation” or an employee backlash.
  • The firm will offer advice across four different areas: general corporate strategy; diversity, equity and inclusion; talent acquisition; and traditional crisis communications.
  • Minyon Moore, a former political director in President Clinton’s White House and one of Harris’ closest confidants, is on the board of advisers.

What we’re hearing: Alvin B. Tillery Jr., a professor of American politics at Northwestern University, will head the DEI practice.

  • Beth Kojima, a private equity and Goldman Sachs veteran, will be in charge of talent.
  • Melissa Prober, a litigator and former in-house counsel at the Clinton Foundation, will handle crisis communications and serve as general counsel.
  • Brian Mathis, a former Clinton-era Treasury official and investment adviser, is serving as a senior adviser.

Go deeper

Sep 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

What young people want from their employers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Workers increasingly want their companies to think bigger than profits and speak up on social issues — and it's younger employees driving the trend.

The big picture: As the next generation enters the workforce, companies will have to devote even more time and resources to tackling issues like systemic racism, income inequality and climate change.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.