Steven J. Ricchetti grew up in Westlake, Ohio and graduated from Westlake High School.
He received his undergraduate degree from Miami University in Ohio (where he served as student body president) in 1979, and his J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law.
Ricchetti led the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's political department from 1987 to 1989 and was executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1990 to 1992. In the latter role, Ricchetti oversaw the upset victory of Democratic candidate Harris Wofford in the 1991 special election for Senate in Pennsylvania.
From January 1993 to February 1996, he was a White House staffer in the Clinton administration, holding the title of Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. In this role, Ricchetti was the president's principal liaison to the Senate. Ricchetti conducted work for the administration on the economic recovery act of 1993, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and other legislation.
From 1996 to 1998, Ricchetti was in the private sector, engaged in lobbying for clients at the governmental relations firm Public Strategies Washington (PSW). In September 1998, he returned to the White House, where he was tasked with handling relations with congressional Democrats amidst the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. In January 1999, Ricchetti became deputy White House chief of staff (succeeding John Podesta) and gained a larger portfolio. Along with Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, Ricchetti "led the Administration's successful campaign to secure permanent normal trade relations with China."
In January 2001, Ricchetti founded Ricchetti, Inc., a government relations (lobbying) and political consulting firm. Over the following years, Ricchetti's firm represented a number of clients, including AT&T, Eli Lilly & Co., the American Hospital Association, and United Technologies.
In March 2012 he was appointed to be counselor to Vice President Joe Biden. This caused controversy due to President Obama's promise to not appoint lobbyists. "Ricchetti officially deregistered from lobbying with Congress at the end of 2008, just as Obama was assuming office and issuing a tough new ethics policy meant to curb the revolving door between his administration and K street." Because he had not lobbied personally for over two years, he did not require a waiver from the administration's policy.
In December 2013, Ricchetti succeeded Bruce Reed as chief of staff to the vice president, with the rank of Assistant to the President. Ricchetti was the chief planner for a possible Biden run in the 2016 presidential election. (Biden ultimately decided not to run.)
Ricchetti is on the board of advisors of the Center for Congress at Indiana University.
Ricchetti lives in Arlington, Virginia. He is married to his wife Amy and has four children.