HIRED GUNS
1 Neal T. "Buddy" Jones
HillCo Partners, Texas House, Speaker Gib Lewis Chief of Staff, Hill County District Attorney
1 Rusty Kelley
Blackridge, Speaker Billy Clayton Chief of State, Chief Texas House Sergeant at Arms
1 Robert Miller
Locke Lord Public Law Group Chair, Houston METRO Chairman, State Senate Aide
1 Mike Toomey
Texas Capitol Group, Texas House, Chief of Staff to Govs. Rick Perry and Bill Clements
5 John Pitts
Texas Star Alliance, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock General Counsel and Senate Chaplain
6 Lara Keel
Texas Capitol Group, State Senate Aide, Red State Women President
7 James Mathis
Carriage House Partners, John Sharp Campaign Manager
8 Clint Hackney
Hackney Governmental Affairs, Texas House, Tales of American History Radio Show Creator
9 Ron Lewis
Ron Lewis & Associates, Texas House, Interstate Oil & Gas Commission
10 Jay Howard
HillCo Partners, Son of State Representative and Senator and Federal Insurance Administrator
11 David White
Public Blueprint, Advisor to Statewide Leaders Glenn Hegar, Susan Combs and Wayne Christian as House Chief of Staff
12 Mindy Ellmer
Texas House and Senate Aide, Gov. Bill Clements Aide, State Rep. Charlie Geren Wife
13 Mark Vane
Husch Blackwell, Texas House Legislative Director
14 Curt Seidlits
Focused Advocacy, Texas House, Association of Electric Companies of Texas and TXU Executive
15 Steve Bresnen
Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock General Counsel, Chief Deputy Comptroller, Texas Senate Research Center Founding Director
16 Mark Malone
M Group Strategies, TXU Executive
17 Jim Grace
Grace & McEwan, Campaign Advisor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant and Afghanistan Veteran
18 Mark Miner
McGuireWoods, Communications Director for Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and RNC
19 Deirdre Delisi
Delisi Communications, Gov. Rick Perry Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager, Transportation Commission Chair
20 Carol McGarah
Blackridge, Texas Senate Aide
21 Patricia Shipton
Ron Lewis & Associates, Speaker Joe Straus Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, Gov. Rick Perry Legislative Liaison
22 Royce Poinsett
Poinsett PLLC, Gov. Rick Perry, Speaker Tom Craddick, Gov. George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Advisor
23 Billy Phenix
Texas Capitol Group, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and State Senate Advisor
24 Chris Shields
Texas Strategy Group, Gov. Bill Clements Aide, Asst. Secretary of State
25 Sabrina Thomas Brown
Sabrina T. Brown Consulting, Texas House aide and Appropriations Committee Clerk
26 Craig Chick
Foley Gardere, Speaker Joe Straus Advisor, Texas House and Senate Aide
27 James Clark
Carriage House Partners, Comptroller John Sharp Campaign Manager, Attorney General Jim Mattox Campaign Aide
28 Michelle Wittenburg
Speaker Tom Craddick General Counsel and Policy Analyst
29 Denise Davis
Davis Kaufman, Speaker Joe Straus Chief of Staff and General Counsel, House Parliamentarian, Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff General Counsel
30 Jesse Ancira
Speaker Joe Straus Chief of Staff, Taylor Mayor
31 Jay Brown
Jay P. Brown Consulting, Son of Former State Senator, Federal Judge Briefing Attorney
32 Eric Woomer
Congress Avenue Partners, State Senators Kel Seliger, Teel Bivins and Mario Gallegos Chief of Staff, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Aide
33 Brandon Aghamalian
Focused Advocacy, State Sen. Kim Brimer Chief of Staff, Fort Worth Public Affairs Director
34 Chad Cantella
Chad Cantella Lobbying, Texas Star Alliance, Energy Firm Founder
35 Jay Propes
Congressional Aide, Trade Association Executive
36 Marc Rodriguez
San Antonio Government Affairs Manager and Chamber Executive
37 Trent Townsend
Imperium Public Affairs, State Sen. Kirk Watson Chief of Staff, State Senator Kim Brimer Legislative Director
38 Marsha Jones
HillCo Partners, Texas House and Senate Aide
39 Bruce Scott
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Advisor, Senate Business and Commerce Committee Director
40 Dean & Andrea McWilliams
Legislative Aides to Democratic and Republican Members
41 Carrie Simmons
Texas Capitol Group, House GOP Caucus Director, State Senator Larry Taylor Aide, Red State Women Officer
42 J. McCartt
HillCo Partners, Aide to Rick Perry in the Lt. Governor's Office
43 Kathy Grant
Texas Cable Television Association Government Relations Director, Texas House Aide
44 Lisa Kaufman
Davis Kaufman, Speaker Joe Straus Policy Director, State Senator Robert Duncan General Counsel
45 Chris Hosek
Texas Star Alliance, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones Chief of Staff
46 Deborah Ingersoll
Legislative Solutions, Key Fundraiser
47 Mark Borskey
Deputy Legislative Director for Gov. Rick Perry, Texas House Aide
48 Brad Shields
Texas Legislative Associates, Eanes School Board Trustee
49 Nef Partida
Locke Lord, Former Campaign Consultant for Democratic and Republican Campaigns
50 Amy Maxwell
Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn Aide
51 Eric Wright
Congress Avenue Partners, Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff Chief of Staff
52 Colin Parrish
Gov. Rick Perry Budget Advisor, State Rep. Wayne Smith Chief of Staff
53 Mignon McGarry
State Senate Aide
54 John Pitts Jr.
Texas Star Alliance, Gov. Rick Perry Aide and Campaign Staff
55 Crystal Brown
Locke Lord, State Senator Carol Alvarado Chief of State in the House, State Senator Lois Kolkhorst Committee Clerk
56 Brian Yarbrough
Erben & Yarbrough
57 Sandy Garcia Hoy
Texas Apartment Association General Counsel, State Senator Brandon Creighton Aide in House
58 Keith Strama
Beatty Bangle Strama, -Texas House Aide
59 Holly DeShields
McGuire Woods, State Senator Mike Jackson Chief of Staff
60 Mario Martinez
Mario Martinez & Associates, Aide State Rep. Tom Uher Aide
61 Snapper Carr
Focused Advocacy General Counsel, Texas Municipal League Counsel
62 Stephanie Gibson
Texas Legislative Associates, Texas Retailers Association Vice President
63 Robert Peeler
Longbow Partners, State Senate Chief of Staff and Gov. George Bush Aide
64 Mike & Shannon Meroney
Meroney Public Affairs, U.S. Senate Aide and Congressional Campaign Staff
65 Micah Rodriguez
Blackridge, Senate Hispanic Caucus Director, State Sen. Carlos Uresti and John Whitmire Aide
66 Bill Pewitt
Bill Pewitt & Associates, Texas Computer Industy Council Founder
67 Jim Dow
Cross Oak Group, Texas 20/20 PAC Director, Texas House Aide, Obama White House
68 Machree Gibson
Graydon Group, Asst. Secretary of State, Governor Ann Richards Legislative Director
Texas Lobby Rising Stars Texas Lobby Teams
Former Texas Legislators Law Firm Lobby Shops
Texas Political Consultants Private Sector Associations
Former State Agency Heads Public Sector Associations
Corporate In-House Lobby Nonprofit Organizations
Causes & Issues Lobbyists Texas Lobby Hall of Fame

 

January 25, 2019

Bonnen Gavel Grab and Blue Wave at the Polls
Boost Stock for Lobby Pros with Connections

MeToo Movement Unintended Consequences

Former Speaker Has Special Ties as Role Model

Texas House Speaker Bank Has Lobby Investors

Professional Advocacy Association of Texas

The lobbyists who ply their trade full time at the statehouse in Austin had learned long ago that the lawmaker who was the least interested in hearing their pitch was a representative in the Texas House named Dennis Bonnen. Trying to lobby the Republican from the industrial town of Angleton near the coast was a waste of time that had the potential to backfire more than it did for a productive conversation that could pay off down the line. The Legislature's youngest member during his freshman debut at the age of 24 in 1997, Bonnen had already made up his mind after exploring the pros and cons and every possible angle on every important issue of the day. The more daring public advocates who did try to lobby Bonnen never knew what kind of mood the bald and bespectacle banker might be in on any given day as one of the most capricious and temperamental people under the pink granite dome. Even when Bonnen was relatively chill by his standards, he was going to cut you off the first time he detected the slightest hint of spin. There wasn't much you could do to sway the opinion of someone who already knew it all.

But that didn't stop Bonnen from having some tight relationships with a few members of the Austin lobby like Rusty Kelley and Robert Miller - and that should give this pair of veteran governmental professionals an exponential edge over the competition now that they both have a very close friend running the show in the west wing of the Texas Capitol as the first new speaker of the House of Representatives in 10 years.

One of the original hired gun lobbyists in Texas, Kelley was a ground floor investor in the Heritage Bank that Bonnen founded in Pearland. Kelley - a longtime lobbyist who entered the profession after working as the chief of staff to a Democratic speaker in the 1970s - served as a director on the board of the Bonnen bank. Miller knows the House's top leader as well or better than any of his professional peers and rivals at the statehouse as the leader of a law firm lobby team that featured the new speaker's wife Kim Bonnen before she retired a few years ago. Miller and Kelley could be closer to the newly-minted speaker than any of Bonnen's colleagues in the lower chamber where he's never been one of the good old boys or fashionable surbanites with a superior intelligence and aggressive style that's designed for results more than making friends. In a business where the three most important assets are talent, experience and who you know, it doesn't take a doctorate in political science to figure out why Kelley and Miller are second to none in the Capitol Inside Texas Lobby Power Rankings for 2019.

But Bonnen's good buddies in the lobby aren't sharing the crown exclusively on the biennial assessment of lobby clout at a Capitol where Neal T. "Buddy" Jones and Mike Toomey have all but owned the top of the mountain in the rankings that appeared initially on the day when the Texas political and governmental news and information publication was born online exactly 16 years ago today. Toomey - a former Texas House Republican who served as the chief of staff for two governors - has been rated lower than second only once since 2005 on the hired gun list that's been the project's centerpiece in the lobby rankings that are rolled out during the opening month of regular sessions in odd-numbered year. A former Democratic lawmaker who stepped down from the House in 1983 on the day that Toomey took the oath for the oath for the first time, Jones was ranked number one at the start of the last three regular sessions on the hired gun chart for contract lobbyists who represent a wide array of clients in the private and public sectors. Jones has an average ranking of 1.69 on the last seven contract lobbyist power appraisals while Toomey is close behind with a 1.86 average during the same span of time. Toomey and Jones have each slipped to third only one time in that period. Both still appear to be at the top of their games for reasons that are similar in some aspects and considerably different in others. Kings tend to reign until they're overthrown or give up the thone on their own or simply cease to exist. And that's why Jones and Toomey are back at the pinnacle of lobby power in the Texas Capital City in an unprecedented four-way tie in the gauge on hired gunslinger sway on Capitol Inside's 16th and sweetest birthday to date.

The 2019 rankings contain the same names in the highest stations with the highly-significant exception of Bill Messer - a former House Democrat who served with both Jones and Toomey in the lower chamber in a longago era at a statehouse that was an extremely different world that's turning now. Messer, who was Toomey's partner throughout the past two decades, has been shifting to a lower gear while passing the torch to a protoge after one of the most successful careers in the history of lobbying in the Lone Star State. Messer has been ranked as high as first in 2005 with a rating of fifth two years ago as his only showing out of the top four on the contract lobby list.

But this year's lists of hired guns and lobbyists in a dozen additional categories - while topped by the same elite group of titans - are a collective reflection of Bonnen's ascension to the apex of power in a simultaenous series of events that included a blue wave election that's had a sea change effect on the Texas political landscape. With a dozen more Democrats in the Texas House and two new Democratic senators who unseated tea party conservatives at the polls last fall, the lobbyists with connections to the minority party are getting a bump in the clout accumulation chase in Austin this year. The Capitol advocacy pros who have ties to the Democrats and the fledgling Texas House speaker or Governor Greg Abbott or Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick or a combination of the GOP leadership triad's members may be poised to have their best sessions yet in 2019.

Austin lobbyist James Mathis is the prime case in point as a former campaign manager for Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp - one of the last Democrats to hold statewide office in Texas in a career that included stints as comptroller, railroad commissioner, state senator and representative. While Mathis has long been one of the lobby's top members here, he's rocketed into the top 10 on the hired guns list as a business partner and close friend to the new speaker's chief of staff Gavin Massingill. Mathis' wife has signed on as the clerk for the House Administration Committee that GOP State Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth is chairing again as one of Bonnen's closest allies despite his support for a rival in the leadership fight. Terri Mathis has joined Geren's team as the same time his former policy director has gone to work in the speaker's office as the executive coordinator. Another former Sharp campaign advisor - James Clark - has vaulted into a high spot on the contract lobbyist list as a Mathis and Massingill partner outside the Capitol.

The Texas Tribune has raised the specter about Mathis and Massingill as possible shareholders in Bonnen's bank that's had longtime lobbyists like Gordon Johnson, Mignon McGarry and Jack Roberts as investors. Kelley has helped raise investment capital for the financial institution that the new speaker runs in Pearland about 30 miles from the coastal city where he's based. Bonnen says that he sees no potential conflict of interest in the personal business ties to the lobby.

Two of the 10 highest-ranked hired gun lobbyists - Clint Hackney and Ron Lewis - served as Democrats in the Texas House where they both chaired multiple committees and have had strong relationships on both sides of the aisle during long careers as advocates for an abundance of clients with major interests in Austin. Four of the five professionals on the list of former lawmakers who lobby were Democrats when they served in the Legislature. Austin lobbyist Stan Schlueter - a former Baylor University basketball player who'd been one of the state's most powerful legislators in the 1980s - and former House colleague Bill Messer are sharing the crown at the top of the list of legislators turned lobbyists as charter members of Capitol Inside's Texas Lobby Hall of Fame.

HillCo's Jay Howard has the pedigree as a product of family with a father who served in the state House and Senate as a conservative East Texas Democrat and a mother who Bill Clinton appointed to be the Federal Insurance Administrator at FEMA during his stint in the White House. Howard the lobbyist had been on a steady climb in the power rankings before making his appearance this year for the first time on the list of the 10 top hired guns at the statehouse in Austin. While HillCo and the group that Kelley leads at the Blackridge firm have made it a point to have the strongest possible relations on both sides of the aisle, Howard commands the kind of respect and admiration that trascends partisan politics as a truly consummate professional and gentleman.

While Mindy Ellmer isn't related to Massingill, Mathis, Bonnen or any well-known Democrats as far as we know, she's climbed up all the way up to the 12th slot on the hired guns list as a veteran lobbyist who's been married to Geren for almost two years. But Ellmer had been ranked high in the pre-Geren era because she's been one of the best in the business - and as she enters her first regular session since the two wed - she faces a constant balancing act to avoid the appearance of potential conflicts as a result of her spouse's immense clout and high profile.

Veteran Capitol professional John Pitts - who's twin brother served as the House Appropriations Committee chairman on Joe Straus' team as Bonnen's predecessor - has moved up a notch to fifth on the hired guns list as a lobbyist who lives in Houston and leads the Austin lobby firm Texas Star Alliance. But Pitts doesn't fit the stereoptype of a lobbyist who relies on wining, dining and cajoling as the keys to success as a public advocate. Pitts has fortified his team with associates who are experts in specific areas of government and capable of actually designing the policies that they plan to pitch for clients as solutions to some of the most intricate and challenging issues that lawmakers face like health care and the complex relationship that it requires between Texas and and the federal government. The group that Pitts has assembled conceives the basic concepts that become the foundations for innovative proposals that it takes vast experience and knowledge on complicated subjet matter to craft and to sell.

Pitts is an attorney who served as a general counsel for Democrat Bob Bullock in the lieutenant governor's office in the 1990s when he doubled as the Texas Senate chaplain. While lots of lawmakers and lobbyists were spending hours at the golf course, Pitts was working overtime on the first major state water plan that Bullock had chosen him to develop as his personal number one priority in his second term as the Senate president at a time when the spotlight had been on George W. Bush's push to cut property taxes as the governor.

The list of contract lobbyists is loaded with former Bullock aides who worked for the legendary leader before he stepped down from public office in 1999 and died five months later.

High-ranked hired guns like Steve Bresnen and Billy Phenix had Bullock for their boss in the lieutenant governor's office. Any array of lobbyists like Martin Hubert, Julia Rathgeber and Dan Pearson used experience that they gained as Bullock advisors as springboards for careers that have included stints as the heads of major state agencies. Walter Fisher, who's being honored this year as one of two new Texas Lobby Hall of Fame members, was the Senate parliamentarian when Bullock was leading the upper chamber in Austin. Fisher had worked as a parliamentarian or senior advisor or both for a long list of major Texas officials since that time including current and former Lieutenant Governors Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst in between stints in the lobby. Fisher had claimed to have retired before Governor Greg Abbot enlisted him to be his legislative director for the regular session in 2019.

 

Crusade Spawned by Bad Male Behavior Could
Have Unintended Consequences in the Lobby

The #MeToo Movement has left the political career of a Texas Senate Republican crippled in its trek across America during the past 15 months while magnifying the shocking self-destruction of a GOP member in the state's delegation to Congress. The furor that erupted in the entertainment industry has spilled into the political arena where the state House and Senate have adopted policies that are designed to prevent sexual harrassment at the Capitol.

But the women's protection crusade could be having a double-edged effect on the plight of the female professionals in the Austin lobby as they practice their craft in 2019 in a profession that's always been dominated by men.

The women lobbyists at the statehouse here could be beneficiaries to various degrees of the crackdown on sexual misconduct based simply on the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. The females who lobby here could get a collective bump in the amount of clout they wield as a result of a heightened awareness and emphasis on how women have a better chance to succeed on a more level playing field. The women who'd already established themselves as top-flight lobbyists with a stable of clients that they'd been building for years might have the most to gain in light of the fact that they'd prospered before any potential advantage that a changing national climate and mindset might provide.

But some of the public advocates who are females who fear a possible backlash from the #MeToo push if potential clients decided that it would be safer to hire men as their representatives at the Capitol to avoid situations that could be condusive to the kind of behavior that the movement is trying to prevent.

The prospects for an adverse reaction could be a valid cause for concern for the less experienced women lobbyists whose livelihoods depend on their ability to recruit new clients without the credentials that their rivals who've been in the business longer have to pitch themselves. But that hasn't appeared to slow the flow of women into the lobby in Austin where about half the names on this year's list of rising stars belong to women like they did in the rankings at the start of the last three regular sessions.

The female lobbyists who've proven time and time again that they can get the job done have slightly fared better as a group on the hired gun list than they had two years ago when a record number of women were registered to lobby here.

While the number of women who are rated among the top 50 contract lobbyists has grown from 11 in 2017 to 13 this time around. Six women are ranked in the top 25 in 2019, however, after only two had that distinction at the outset of the Legislature's last biennial gathering.

Lara Keel - a former state Senate aide who's had Toomey as her chief mentor in the Texas Lobby Group - is ranked higher than any other woman who represents multiple clients at the Capitol like she'd been in the early stages of every regular session since 2011.

Keel is only the second female lobbyist to crack the top 10 on the hired gun list since the rankings were conceived in early 2003. Keel joins Nora del Bosque as the only two women who've been ranked twice among the 10 contract lobbyists with the most sway at the statehouse here. But Keel has moved into a league of her own as the only woman in the Austin to climb as high as sixth on the hired gun chart where she appears this year. Del Bosque had been ranked ninth on the contract lobbyists list during Midland Republican Tom Craddick's second term as the House speaker in 2005 when her sister was working as his chief of staff. Del Bosque jumped to seventh two years later before the family connection evaporated after Republican Joe Straus unseated her sibling's boss in the leadership election in 2009.

The keys to Keel's success have been a genuine and gracious nature that's made it possible for her to rise above the cutthroat competition that's an inevitable part of the territory in the business of legislative lobbying. Keel is one of the few if not the only full-time lobbyist who's universally beloved and respected among her peers in the profession here. Keel's one of the best in the business here in large part as a function of natural talent and a perpetual desire to keep getting better. She gives Toomey a massive amount of credit for what she's achieved since he took her under his wing when she entered the occupation that she's loves as much as anyone could.

Mindy Ellmer, who's married to powerful GOP State Rep. Charlie Geren, is the second highest-ranked woman on the hired gun lobby list for 2019 in the twelfth spot while veteran Capitol advocates Patricia Shipton, Deirdre Delisi, Sabrina Brown and Carol McGarah are all in the top 25.

A former legislative liaison for Republican Rick Perry in the governor's office, Shipton had been flourising in the lobby before she returned to the Capitol to work for Speaker Joe Straus in the same capacity that she had under the nation's current energy secretary when he was still leading the state. She served as Straus' chief of staff during his final three years as the Texas House's top leader before reuniting with lobby partner Ron Lewis - a former state representative who's been a top 10 hired gun for several years.

Delisi had worked her way up the Perry organizational chart by the time he chose her to replace Mike Toomey as his chief of staff at the Capitol. Delisi, who'd managed Perry's first gubernatorial campaign 16 years ago, landed a presitgious appointment from her ex-boss in 2008 to the Texas Transportation Commission that the governor at the time selected her to chair. McGarah is a veteran governmental advocate who's been high-powered lobbyist Rusty Kelley's top partner at the firm Blackridge since they founded it. Kelley credits a substantial share of his own success to his partnership with McGarah.

 

Texas Lobby Hall of Fame Has Two New Members
with Straus Team QB and Abbott Legislative Chief

TEXAS LOBBY HALL
OF FAME 2005-2019
Don Adams
Gaylord Armstrong
Dick Brown
Billy Clayton
Jerry "Nub" Donaldson
Jack Erskine
Walter Fisher
Galt Graydon
Jack Gullahorn
Ed Howard
Dickie Ingram
Gordon Johnson
Robert Johnson
Neal T. "Buddy" Jones
Rusty Kelley
Gib Lewis
Demetrius McDaniel
Bill Messer
Bill Miller
Stan Schlueter
Mike Toomey
Tommy Townsend
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Democrat Beto O'Rourke's emergence as a 2020 presidential primary frontrunner after a losing U.S. Senate bid capped off an election season that may have signaled an end to the GOP's reign as the ruling party in the Lone Star State. The tide from a blue wave at the polls hadn't started to subside by the time Republican Dennis Bonnen captured the Texas House speaker's job in spectacular fashion less than a week after the November vote.

The last 12 months were a monumental time for newsmaking in the Texas political universe. But one of the most significant stories that's unfolding without fanfare at the statehouse in Austin centers on the revival of Gordon Johnson's career as a lobbyist after a hiatus that spanned an entire decade. Johnson has had a massive impact on statehouse politics from behind the scenes during that time as the chief conductor of Republican Joe Straus' political operation as the Texas House speaker for five terms before he stepped down from the dais this month.

After 10 years of falling on the sword and deflecting as much blame as possible from Straus to himself, Johnson will be the cutthroat competition of the lobby to be a bed of roses in comparison as he eases back into his old profession now. Johnson had been one of the most successful public advocates in Austin before he put a lucractive lobby practice on hold when Straus reached out for his help as a longtime family friend after claiming the gavel for the first time in 2009. But Johnson is returning to his professional roots as a full-fledged legend who's one of two inductees into the Capitol Inside Texas Lobby Hall of Fame in 2009.

The son of a former state representative who served as the parliamentarian in both the House and the Senate, Johnson is gaining admission to the ring of honor for Texas lobbyists at the same time another old friend and longtime peer in the business of professional public advocacy is being inducted as well.

But the timing of Walter Fisher's selection seems fitting in light of the fact that the former Straus political maestro's father Bob Johnson had been his mentor in the early stages of a career that featured stints as the parliamentarian on both sides of the rotunda as well. Fisher learned the ropes of state government from Bob Johnson at the Texas Legislative Council that had been a stepping stone an initial lobby job as the representative at the Capitol for the Texas Municipal League. But Fisher has taken the call of public service more than on multiple occassions in between stints as one of the top contract lobbyists in the Capital City - and he's come out of an ostensible retirement as Governor Greg Abbott's legislative director for the regular session in 2019.

Fisher was the top parliamentary advisor for a long list of legislative leaders on both sides of the rotunda and the partisan aisle when he wasn't lobbying - and he signed on as a senior advisor to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick during his first session as the Senate's presiding officer in 2015. While Fisher can't seem to say no when major state leaders need his wisdom and counsel to keep the wheels of government turning, he left the lobby when he was at his peak in exchange for the job with Patrick that he incorrectly thought would be his last hurrah in public service.

Johnson's brother and lobby partner Robert Johnson had been in a group of six current and former lobbyists who were honored with Hall of Fame slots in the Capitol Inside Texas Lobby Power Rankings during the first month of the regular session in 2017. Gordon Johnson will most likely take up where he left off before he was drafted for the tour of duty with Straus as a lobbyist who'd been one of the leading advocates for racetrack gambling in Texas while representing an array of other interests in Austin as well.

Longtime lobbyists Stan Schlueter and Bill Messer - a pair of former lawmakers who served with Jones and Toomey in the state House in the 1980s - are charter members of the Texas Lobby Hall of Fame in 2005 in the midst of illustrious careers that are still active. While Messer and Schlueter had been perennial names in the highest ranks on the contract lobbyists list before a shift this year to the catergory of former lawmakers who lobby where they are ranked in a tie for first. Mike Toomey, Rusty Kelley and Buddy Jones are the only Hall of Fame members who are appearing again on the contract lobbyist list where they are sharing the top spot.

Gordon Johnson Walter Fisher
Texas Lobby Hall of Fame
Carol McGarah Daniel Hodge
Logan Spence Brandy Marty
Matthew Bentley Holly DeShields
Andrea Stingley Erci Woomer

 

 

Stan Schlueter Stan Schlueter
Bill Messer Bill Messer
Pete Laney Pete Laney

Former House Leader
in League of His Own
with New Speaker Ties

Let the record show that Democrat Pete Laney has not made a spectacular comeback as the new unofficial Texas House speaker who's running the show from behind the scenes. It misht just seem that way when you get a glimpse of the organizational chart in the office of the official new top leader in the Legislature's lower chamber.

As Speaker Dennis Bonnen makes the transition to the pinnacle of power in the west wing of the statehouse, he may feel like he has the last Democrat who ever led the House as a vicarious mentor based on the team that he's assembled for his debut in the dais in 2019. The Angleton lawmaker who's swinging the gavel now has high-ranking staff members and advisors with Laney connections just about everywhere he looks when he's at work these days.

Laney - a West Texan who has a day job as cotton farmer - shouldn't have any trouble getting in the door this year at the office that used to be his own for 10 years if and when he seeks a meeting with the current speaker or his top aides in a moonlighting role as a registered lobbyst. The former speaker's special new connections on the side of the rotunda that he used to run could also come in handy for his son - J. Pete Laney - an Austin attorney who lobbies at times for the legal clients that he represents.

You're probably not going to find the elder Laney going out of his way to drum up new business as a result of his close ties to Bonnen's chief of staff, legislative director, deputy chief of staff, parliamentarian and others who are tight with the new speaker in and outside the statehouse. Laney, who led the House until the Republicans took over in 2003, has only been signed up to represent two clients at the Capitol in the early stages of the current session. That's the same number he had before Bonnen ever emerged as a candidate for the leadership post last fall. The younger Laney had more than twice as many names on his lobby registration list last year than his dad.

But Laney the former House boss would have clients lining up outside the door if he decided to pursue public advocacy in Austin on more of a full-time basis when the Legislature is in session here for at least 140 days in odd-numbered years. That probably isn't going to happen with a 76th birthday coming up in March and a crop back home to tend.

Laney has spent a significant portion of his adult life in in the Capital City that's a six-hour drive from his home base of Hale Center north of Lubbock. But Laney has been looking out for a few lobby clients since a 36-year stint in the House ended in 2007 - possibly because that's simply what former speakers here always seem to do to some degree after they relinquish the gavel.

Laney's predecessor in the speaker's office - Democrat Gib Lewis - is still working the statehouse halls more than a dozen years after he was inducted as a charter member in the Capitol Inside Texas Lobby Hall of Fame. Lewis, a Fort Worth product, had the distinction of being the longest-serving House speaker ever in Texas by the time he stepped down in 1993 when Laney was elected to replace him. Laney tied the Lewis longevity mark with five terms as the lower chamber's top leader before the GOP claimed the majority there for the first time since Reconstruction.

The late Billy Clayton - another West Texas Democrat who'd served three terms as speaker before Lewis held the job for 10 - was an original lobby hall of famer as well.

Midland Republican Tom Craddick - a former Laney ally who eventually turned against him - hasn't had a chance to enter the revolving door of the lobby because he just began yet another term in the House where he's served for an unprecedented 50 years. It's hard to imagine Craddick hanging outside the chambers in Austin in an attempt to buttonhole former colleagues for a pitch as a lobbyist. Craddick has been a recent roll inside the brass rail in fact as a surprise Bonnen choice to chair the Land & Resource Management Committee at a time when it will be dealing with eminent domain issues that could make or break President Donald Trump's plans for a wall on the Rio Grande.

Craddick's successor - San Antonio Republican Joe Straus - plans to focus more on state politics in a way that he hasn't made clear at this point with no apparent interest in a midlife career change to the lobby after a decade at the helm of the lower chamber. Straus passed the torch to Bonnen on opening day of the regular session after moving into a three-way tie with Lewis and Laney as the Texans who presided over the Texas House longer than any of the speakers before them.

Bonnen in the meantime has pulled Laney back into the spotlight by telling folks that he plans to use the West Texan has his chief role model in the way he leads a chamber with 150 members including a dozen Democrats who wrestled seats from the GOP last fall. Bonnen served six years in the House when Laney was still wielding the gavel at a time when Texas was transitioning from Democrat to Republican. Now it appears that Bonnen is building on the lessons that he learned in the past with an eye on the future in a state where the Republicans were staggered in November by a blue wave that could be a sign of things to come.

 

Lobby Power Rankings
2019 Guideline Revisions

The strategists who are ranked in the special section for political consultants who lobby no longer appear on the hired gun lists for contract lobbyists like a few of them have in recent years past. This change stems from the fact that the folks on this list have been generally regarded in Texas political circles as campaign operatives who've been part-time lobbyists cashing in on the access that they have to the legislators they've helped elect are meeting in Austin in regular session. The hired gun list has been reserved for lobbyists who pursue their profession as professional advocates full-time all year.

The lion's share of former legislators who lobby appear on their own special list with the exception of those who are ranked amoung the top 20 contract lobbyists at the statehouse here. All of the lobbyists on the hired guns list represent multiple clients while those with a singular focus are ranked in categories for organizations that represent public and private interests or concentrate on specific policy issues and areas.

A designation as a rising lobby star is good for only one regular session. The newcomers with potential star quality either graduate to one of the other lists in their sophomore sessions as registered lobbyists or fall off the charts until working their way back on to them.

 

Proactive Apology: The Best
of the Rest that We Missed

As a project that was published initially on the same day in early 2003 that Capitol Inside made its debut on the Internet, the lobby rankings has mushroomed into a monstrous undertaking during the past 14 years. Accidental omissions are inevitable - as a consequence - and we apologize in advance for failing to include everyone who's worthy of mention here. That would be less likely to occur, however, if we'd known about the individuals and groups who deserved to be ranked but haven't been. So this is a two-way street - and please feel free to call it to our attention if you think you've been unjustly left out.

69 Dana Chiodo
Dana Chiodo Legislative Consulting, Texas House and Senate Aide
70 Jeri Brooks
One World Strategy Group, Houston Mayor Annise Parker Communications Director, City Council Aide
71 Will Yarnell
Chief Advisor to Texas House Democrat
72 Angela Hale
Red Media Group, Speaker Joe Straus Communications Director, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott Senior Advisor
73 Jack Roberts
Deputy Comptroller
74 Shayne Woodard
Waterloo Lobby & Advocacy, Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson Chief of Staff, State Sen. Bill Sims and State Rep. David Counts Aide
75 Wayne Hamilton
San Jacinto Public Affairs, Gov. Rick Perry Advisor, Texas GOP Director
76 Michael Johnson
Blackridge, Brother of Major GOP Consultant Rob Johnson
77 Michael Grimes
Imperium Public Affairs, State Senator Chris Harris Chief of Staff, Gov. George W. Bush Aide
78 Joey Bennett
Public Strategies Lobbyist
79 Nora Del Bosque
State House Aide and Appropriations Committee Clerk
80 Joe Garcia
Texas Capitol Group, State Senator Eddie Lucio Chief of Staff
81 Gilbert Turrieta
Houston Chamber, TMA Official and LBB Examiner
82 Jennifer Rodriguez
Daughter of State Legislator and Gubernatorial Advisor
83 Jennifer McEwan
Grace & McEwan, Texas Transportation Alliance Director
84 Tristan “Tris” Castañeda
Longbow Partners, Asst. Attorney General, San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros Aide
85 Curtis Fuelberg
Texas Association of Realtors Official, Speaker Gus Mutscher Aide
86 Amy Beard
Foley Gardere, Senate Asst. Sgt. at Arms, Center for Child Protection Board
87 Shannon Swan
Graydon Group, Texas House Chief of Staff
88 Chuck Rice
Chuck Rice Group, State Senate Aide and Texas Hospital Association Official
89 Kwame Walker
McGuireWoods, State Senator Royce West Legislative Director and General Counsel
90 Robert Culley
Legislative Aide
91 Eddie Solis
HillCo Partners,Special Assistant at the Texas Comptroller's Office, Texas Municipal Retirement System Official
92 Michelle Smith
Hillco Partners, Daughter of Former State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock
93 Stephen Koebele
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn General Counsel, Gov. George W. Bush Aide
94 Susan Ross
Texas Dental Association Public Affairs Director
95 Ron Hinkle
Texas Department of Economic Development Official, Texas House Sergeant at Arms
96 Michael Jewell
Stratus Policy Group, Corporate Lawyer and Legislative Lobbyist
97 Brett Findley
Longbow Partners, State Senate Chief of Staff
98 Gerald Valdez
Texas Department of Economic Development Official
99 Wade Long
State Senator David Sibley Chief of Staff
100 Cathy Dewitt
Schlueter Group, Texas Association of Business Vice President, John Cornyn Supreme Court Campaign Manager

 

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