Melody Barnes was chosen by then President-elect Barack Obama to serve as the Director of Domestic Policy Council shortly after the presidential election in 2008, a position she held until her resignation at the end of 2011. Born in Richmond, Virginia to Charles and Mary Frances Barnes in 1964, Barnes obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina, with Honors in History, in 1986. She then earned her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1989. Barnes is a member of the state bar of New York and the District of Columbia Bar Association.
Barnes began her legal career in New York, working at the home office of Shearman and Sterling, LLP, an international law firm, from 1989-92. Thereafter, she served as assistant counsel to the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Notable legislative achievements of the subcommittee include the passage of the Voting Rights Improvement Act of 1992.
In 1994, she served as Director for Legislative Affairs for the Equal Opportunity Commission, leaving in 1995 to assume the position of chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a position she held until 2003. From 2004-08, Ms. Barnes was the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, though she served stints as a principal and lobbyist at the Raban Group, a public policy advocacy group, in 2003 and again in 2008. She has also served as a board member for several organizations, including Emily’s List, The Constitution Project, and the Maya Angelou Public Charter School.
Ms. Barnes was the senior domestic policy advisor to Obama for America, the organization primarily responsible for the successful 2008 presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama. In this role, she was a key advisor in shaping the campaign’s education and health care agenda.
Upon election of President-elect Obama, his transition office announced leaders of its agency review team to examine the inner workings of more than 100 government offices. Barnes was named as one of three agency review co-leaders along with Lisa Brown and Don Gips. Following the inauguration of President Obama, she was promoted to serve as the Director of Domestic Policy Council, becoming a key player in shaping the Obama Administration’s entire domestic policy agenda, including health and education. She resigned her post of White House Domestic Policy Advisor in November 2011, citing family reasons. She will help on the re-election campaign after taking a break. She was succeeded by Cecelia Munoz.