ZACH C. COHEN / THE EAGLE
Aaron Cohen woke up to a text message around 5:30 p.m. one afternoon saying the AU College Democrats were going to host political consultant Kim Christiansen.
Cohen decided to go to the event, not thinking that anything would come of it.
Just a few months later, with Christiansen’s help, Cohen was working on Rep. Matt Campbell’s, D-IA, congressional campaign against Rep. Steve King, R-IA.
Campbell went on to win his primary but lost the general election.
Cohen also worked on a campaign for Francis Thicke, who later became Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Cohen took a “stagnant operation and turned it around” by raising about $350,000 in a month.
A mere junior in the School of International Service, Cohen now works as a consultant with the objective of adding “value at the community level” to his clients.
He also is the chief communications officer of Sawmill Hollow Family Farm in Iowa, which sells jam — all without ever taking a business class.
One thing Cohen says he misses about being on the campaign trail is the sense of purpose.
“You wake up every day with a mission,” he said.
On campus, Cohen was both the debate chair of AU Dems and the economic policy chair of the Roosevelt Institute his freshman year.
Cohen has an air of professional friendliness. But when he needs something done he can be frank and forceful, a skill that came in handy when he was working with campaign staff.
He says he misses some of the direct contact with the public and making good impressions on people.
“Folks know good folks when they see them,” Cohen said.
When it comes to management, Cohen “loves to talk to interns about strategy in a dialogue” rather than a lecture.
He also feels that if an employee really understands why they are doing something, they are more likely to be invested in the task they are completing. For this reason he admires Sally Shelton-Colby, diplomat-in-residence at AU, because she takes the time to discuss the “why” behind any work she assigns.
In terms of politics, Cohen doesn’t like to be “pinned down” by traditional political labels.
“I’m a Democrat, but [I’m for] a small and effective government,” Cohen said.
He went on to say that the regulatory system is more difficult for small businesses to maneuver in than big businesses, which stifles growth.
“I am particularly passionate about growing rural communities,” because he grew up in a small community in Kentucky, “America’s heartland.” (Cohen says he is a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats and has been since before they were popular.)
He is fiscally conservative but socially liberal and insists he is more of a populist than a libertarian.
“I think Republicans have monopolized talking about values, and I hate that because I love talking about why I love America,” he said.
Cohen is for gay rights and “anti-abortion, pro-choice.”
“I would never judge anyone,” he said. “I just have a problem with it personally.”
Whether he is talking about his success in business or as a political consultant, Cohen says, the key to success is knowing how to work with people.
“It’s all organizational theory,” he said.