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January 26, 2005

Good Friends in High Places: Lobbyists
Make the Connection for Maximum Sway

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Mike Toomey
Successful lobbying requires good connections - and the partners at the Locke Liddell & Sapp law firm wanted to make sure they had all the bases covered before the Texas Legislature convened this year. The Houston-based firm's public law team felt good about the relationships it had in the offices of Governor Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick - and Locke Liddell partner Bruce LaBoon was in the process of moving to Austin where he had good connections in Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's office as well. Feeling sufficiently plugged in with the state's top three Republican leaders, the law firm made it a full sweep by hiring an African-American member of the State Democratic Executive Committee to round out its lobby team. With some innovative thinking, serious contacts and no stones unturned, the number one lobby law practice in Texas one year ago is now even better.

Locke Liddell is a blue ribbon winner for the second year in a row as Capitol Inside unveils the 3rd Annual Texas Lobby Power Rankings to conjunction with the opening of the 79th regular session and the start of our third year in the online political newsletter publishing business. But the law firm isn't the only name to be listed tops in a particular category in 2005 after being ranked first a year ago at this time. Only Mike McKinney of the Wholeale Beer Distributors can make that claim after taking the top spot among lobbyists who answer to only one employer for the third straight year. After pumping more money into state politics last year than any other professional political groups or corporate committee, the Texans for Lawsuit Reform is ranked first again among private sector associations on the 2005 power list. SBC is still number one among corporate lobby operations in Texas - and the homegrown San Antonio company has already signed up more than 50 free-lance lobbysts to bolster its position in the face of ever-increasing competition in the telecommuncations business. With about 20 percent of all legislation filed having a potential major effect on cities across the state, the Texas Municipal League has maintained the level of influence it needs to keep an eye on the state and to rank first among public sector organzations like it did in 2004.

In the competition among contract lobbyists who free-lance for multiple clients, the good news for Neal T. "Buddy" Jones is that HillCo Partners is the highest ranked lobby team for the second year and a row. A co-founder of HillCo and one of the original hired guns in the Texas Capitol lobby, Jones ranks first individually in a special category of Texas Hall of Fame lobbyists covering the past 20 years.

Consider that the equivalent of a proverbial lifetime achievement award for a pioneer of the independent hired gun approach to legislative advocacy. But there will be no triple crown this time around. The former state House member from Hillsboro is third behind two other Texas lobby hall of famers on the list of the most powerful gunslingers for hire in this town.

That brings us to Bill Messer, a former Democratic state representative and House Calenders chairman, held the number one ranking on the hired gun list in January 2004 and is first again this year - more or less. Messer, who has an unprecedented connection in the Republican House speaker's office, shares the distinction of the lobby's top hired gun with a lobby firm partner who has as much or more clout in the governor's office. Mike Toomey, an ex-lawmaker whose budget-cutting desires earned him the moniker "Mike the Knife," is tied with Messer for first on the independent lobbyist list after his recent return from his second tour of duty in the past 16 years as a chief of staff for a Republican governor. Toomey and Messer at this point don't have the most lucrative client contracts on file and the lobby firm they co-founded hasn't embraced the sophisticated integrated team approach trend at this point in time. Messer didn't spend much on political candidates last year - and Toomey contributed even less to campaigns because he was still working for Perry and really not in a position to do that. And while the relations that the Texas Lobby Group duo have in other parts of the Capitol may be more tenuous, the connections that Messer and Toomey have in the offices of the speaker and the governor respectively more than mitigate potential shortcomings like that.

The 2005 power rankings are a guide to who's plugged in where and who's making the most of the connections and contacts they have in the high stations where power is accumulated, bestowed and wielded at the Texas Capitol. At this particular moment in time, the best connections are obviously Republican - and this year's power rankings reflect that more than ever. Eight of the top ten political consultants who lobby work strictly for Republican candidates during election years. The other two on that list have made most of their money off Republican business in recent years. The public law team at the Locke Liddell law firm leads the list of law firm lobby practices thanks in part to strong relationships that its top lobbyists have with the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. Three of the top five rising stars to watch have solid Republican ties. A fourth member of that group is a Democrat who lost his House seat last year partly because he'd been a Craddick ally. The only wrinkle in the trend comes courtesy of the Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which tops the list of private sector associations for the second year in a row, thanks mostly to the huge advantage it gained after the GOP claimed control of the Texas House two years ago. But TLR has always insisted that it wasn't partisan - despite the fact that the bulk of its record-setting political support has gone to members of the GOP. The group backed up that claim last year when it rallied behind a half dozen Democrats who'd been targeted for defeat by the GOP despite their support for medical malpractice liability reform. The 2005 rankings include categories for lobby teams, public and private sector associations, non-profit organizations that lobby and corporate in-house lobby teams.

The rankings gauge power in a lobby that's been operating for two years in the lingering shadow of an ongoing grand jury investigation into corporate money in the 2002 elections, which gave the GOP its first state House majority since the Civil War ended. While several top Texas lobbyists have at times been caught up on the edges of the probe if not swept into the middle of it, the show must go on with the lobby and the Legislature preparing to tackle a full plate of issues including workers' compensation, video lottery gambling, retail electric market restructuring, telecommunications competition, homeowners' insurance and a host of other topics with voltaic potential including the number one priority, public school finance and the tax changes that will accompany it. When it's time to talk taxes, most of the lobbyists on this year's list will be putting their power into overdrive in a session with major potential for serious contention not only along partisan lines but internally among members of the same parties as well.

The power rankings are compiled through an unscientific process that requires subjective analysis based partially on Texas Ethics Commission records but moreso on the observations of an informal committee of experts who are key players in the Legislature, the political consulting ranks, the press and the lobby itself. Given the apples-and-oranges nature of comparing individual lobbyists to lobby teams, we've set a one-name limit on the number of lobby team members from law firms and other organizations who qualify for the hired guns list. Some deserving names are not on the list. That is inevitable. But here is the best we can tell at this point in time.


Mike Toomey is prohibited from lobbying Governor Rick Perry's office directly on behalf of paying clients throughout the regular session this year. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he will have any less indirect influence over policy, decisions and the direction the governor's office takes as the year unfolds. Perry trusts Toomey - and Toomey is loyal. The prevailing sentiment at the Capitol is that Toomey will continue to be a major force in Perry's operations - even if he can't technically lobby his old friend for a while.

While Toomey and Bill Messer are in position to exert a record amount of influence as contract lobbyists, Neal T. "Buddy" Jones and Rusty Kelley are in the same league. A former Democratic state representative and co-founder of HillCo Partners, Jones doesn't run the governor's office or the speaker's House ship. But he represents the Bass Brothers, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston home builder Bob Perry, who gave more to state and national Republican politics than any other donor in the nation last year, along with 52 other clients with whom he had deals last year. Perry contributed a substantial amount to HillCo, which donated $450,000 itself to state political candidates last year. Jones is a close third behind Toomey and Messer in 2005 but leads the pack over the past 20 years.

Kelley, the point man on the Public Strategies lobby team, makes it look easy. A former House sergeant-at-arms who worked for former Speaker Billy Clayton, Kelley had another hot hand in 2004 with 57 clients with whom he had deals that had the potential to pay as much as $4.5 million last year. He gave more away on the campaign trail than any of his individual peers in the lobby with contributions of about $66,000 to candidates from both parties.

Lobbyists with serious Republican connections round out the list of the top ten hired guns at the start of 2005. Elton Bomer, who served as secretary of state under Governor George W. Bush, is the fifth most influential hired gun this year. Former Republican State Senator David Sibley is seventh - and Randy Erben, a Republican appointee to jobs such as State-Federal Relations director and assistant secretary of state, is ranked seventh. Frank Santos, who had Buddy Jones for a mentor at HillCo, is plugged into a network of Republican legislators and rapidly expanding his lobby shop from a firm that specialized in health care issues to a unique operation that does it all. Santos has jumped from a mid-twenties ranking two years ago to eighth on the hired gun list this year. He's the highest rated Hispanic lobbyist in a business that's not exactly known for diversity. Nora del Bosque is also a newcomer to the contract lobby list in 2005 - rated ninth as a result of her own unique connection with the Republican speaker's office, where sister Nancy Fisher calls the shots as chief of staff.


When Governor Rick Perry rolled out a school finance plan in last year's special session, he wanted to hike taxes on cigarettes and strip club dancing but not on the drinks that guys in dark-lit bars were knocking down while putting dollars in g-strings and lighting up smokes. But the select House school finance committee couldn't turn the other cheek on alcohol any longer after lobbyists for the Baptists duly noted the omission and forced the panel's members to consider raising taxes on alcoholic beverages well. The beer and liquor lobby had hoped to lay low, but representatives for beer distributors and package stores were armed and eady with compelling presentations about why higher taxes on their clients' products would be bad for the state. It's no coincidence that alcohol was not on the table at the start of the special session - and it won't be a shocker if it's overlooked again. The lobby on this issue is one of the most effective in town. Mike McKinney of the Wholesale Beer Distributors represents clients of all sizes from all across the state while Rick Donley of the Beer Alliance of Texas concentrates on the interests of several of the largest distributors in the state's biggest cities. Butch Sparks, a former district attorney, watches out for wine and distilled spirits wholesalers as the lobbyist for the Licensed Beverage Distributors. All three are highly regarded and rated at or near the top in this category as well.

John Fainter Jr. has been a major player at the Capitol since serving as secretary of state under Governor Mark White and chief of staff in Ann Richards' administration everal years later. Despite the past ties to Democrats, Fainter is a maestro at the system in his job as the chief advocate for the Association of Electric Companies, which represents major utilities around the state. He will likely play a major role in the debate this year on restructuring the electric utility industry in Texas. Fainter is a solid second place in this category for the second year in a row.

The others on the list represent clients that don't quite fit the mold of the typical professional association, public sector advocates or corporate lobby shops. Their interests range from higher eduction to small business to labor. These lobbyists will play various roles as the session unfolds this year, but look for Bill Allaway of the Texas Taxpayers and Researach Association to be a walking encyclopedia on taxes that legislators turn to often when that subject comes up during the debate on school finance this year.


The list of top political consultants who lobby has also doubled in size this year. With the exception of John Sharp's campaign manager in the last lieutenant governor's race, Democrats are few and far between in this category. Bill Miller is one of the few consultants to have imparted political wisdom on both sides of the partisan aisle. But the Democrats he advises have been scarce in recent years. As the resident communications expert at HillCo, which he co-founded, Miller gives Austin's top lobby team another dimension as one of the most frequently quoted analysts at the Texas Capitol.

Some consultants on this list are known more as political operatives than they are members of the lobby. But several others such as Reggie Bashur and his partner Ray Sullivan have been building their lobby practices while spending less time on the campaign trail in the past few years. Bushur, a former press secretary to Governor Bill Clements and a top aide to Governor George W. Bush, has reported having 16 lobby clients with contracts that could pay him more than $1.4 million. Bashur's ranked second in this group this year while Sullivan, who worked in the press shops for Bush and Rick Perry, is rated fifth. Bashur and Sullivan teamed with Perry political consultant Dave Carney a couple of years ago to form their own firm.

Bryan Eppstein is considered by many Democrats and Republicans to be the top Republican campaign consultant in the state. But while that's his claim to fame, Eppstein is also a serious lobbyist with clients such as the Texas Medical Association, the tax collection law firm of Linebarger Goggan and the cops and firemen in Fort Worth, where he's based.

Republican consultant Todd Smith was in big demand on the campaign trail in races for the U.S. House and state House last year. A former State Republican Executive Committee member, Smith worked as executive director for the House Republican Caucus and eventually opened a consulting firm known as IMPACT Texas. About the time Smith was helping elect a Republican majority to the Texas House, he was also developing a lobby practice that's starting to take off the way he'd envisioned at the start. Smith joined forces in a unique alliance with former HillCo lobbyist Frank Santos, whose stock has been on the rise lately as well, and the two are starting to hit it big with some major deals including a recent agreement to be the exclusive representatives at the Texas Capitol for mortgage lending giant Ameriquest.

Norman Newton, a leading Republican fundraiser who played a key role in the GOP's rise to majority power in Texas, has been building a formidable lobby practice when he's not out raising money to give to candidates in even-numbered years. Republican consultants Lee Woods and Jim Arnold double as lobbyists and campaign strategists and will be concentrating on the Legislature for several clients this year.

James Mathis is closest thing to a real live Democrat among the consultants who lobby when not running campaigns - having managed John Sharp's bid for lieutenant governor in 2002. Chuck McDonald's mother represented El Paso as a Democrat in the Texas House - and he was a spokesman for Ann Richards when she was governor. But McDonald has since adapted to the winds of change in Austin with a consulting firm that's represented clients like the Texans for Lawsuit Reform with a sort of quasi-Republican business focus.


Jennifer Shelley Rodriguez had been lobbying for years outside of the spotlight until her stock took a sudden surge recently as a result of an event that had more to do with her father than herself. Rodriguez's chief connection had been her father, former State Senator Dan Shelley, and it looks like that will finally pay off during the next few years. Shelley and his daughter were apparently making note of the way Mike Toomey had parked his clients at the Texas Lobby Group while he did a tour of duty on Governor Rick Perry's staff. Now Shelley, the former Republican state senator and ex-George W. Bush aide, has a similar arrangement with his daughter and her lobby partner husband Marc Rodriguez while he's putting in time as the governor's legislative director. Instead of disbanding his lobby business, Shelley told his clients that he'd be back and his daughter would keep an eye out for them before he returned. Whenever Shelley returns, he won't be able to lobby the governor's office directly for a year and a session. Shelley, ironically, inspired the first revolving door rule at the governor's office after ending a stint there in the 1990s and hooking up immediately with Lockheed Martin in its bid to privatize the state welfare system. Shelley officially ended his ties with his lobby clients before joining Perry's staff last year. He can officially resume his work for them when he gets returns - assuming that his daughter will give them back. She's reaped a windfall of free advertising amid questions about her dad's own business - and she may be a bigger deal in the lobby than he is by the time he gets back from his most recent foray in the public sector. She hasn't really done anything yet to merit her position as the number one rising lobby star to watch this year. But she was in the right place at the right time and now she has name identification that will give her a lift.

The other members of the rising star department are launching brand new lobby careers after leaving the Legislature for various reasons at the start of the year. Former House member Arlene Wohlgemuth of Burleson lost a bid for Congress. Another former House member, Corpus Christi's Jaime Capelo, fell victim to a Democratic primary opponent. Former East Texas State Rep. Barry Telford of DeKalb didn't run again. Now the three former House members will be making more than $600 a month as they join the lobby brigade this year.

The final member of this group isn't a rookie but has moved into a position that should send his stock up as the new executive director of the Texas Association of Builders. That's Scott Norman, who's vice president of governmental affairs with the home builders group. What makes this particular station so special? It gives the person in it the opportunity to become pals with Houston home builder Bob Perry, the number one contributor to Republican politics at the state and national levels last year. Elected officials come and go. But Perry the builder appears to have taken a keen interest in the state's regulation of his business - and his massive power isn't contingent on any re-election attempts.


When it comes to stirring up a grassroots fuss you can't find them any better than Cathie Adams, the longtime president of the Texas Eagle Forum. Adams was rallying Christian conservatives on fundamental issues like a abortion and prayer long before Republicans were close to having a majority at the Texas Capitol - and she was one of the reasons the GOP finally did take control in the past few years. A good lobbyist could camp outside the House chamber for weeks and not have the effect that Adams could with an email alert to the troops to turn up the pressure on legislators on whatever the hot-button issue might be that day. She's not just a cheerleader or a mouthpiece for rapid response spin on local radio shows. She's a player on different levels as evidenced by her work on the national Republican platform at last year's convention in New York City. Yet she's not as predictable as those given to stereotypes might think.

Adams is ranked first on the first list of lobbyists for causes that we've included in the power rankings package. Phil Strickland of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and his ally Weston Ware, who's heading up Texans Against Gambling, will be extolling the demons of video lottery terminals when that fight breaks out at the Capitol this year. Strickland and Ware are ranked second and fourth respectively in this category. The indelible Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen and Common Cause's ever-quotable Suzi Woodford will likely be all over the map fighting for the environment, ethics, consumers and underdog types as the session unfolds. Smith, a former Texas House aide, is ranked third in this department this year while Woodford is fifth.


Buddy Jones and Bill Miller were ahead of their time when they cooked up the idea for HillCo Partners and then set out to make it work. Jones had entered the lobby about 20 years ago when most lobbyists either represented associations or law firms. He was part of the first wave of hired gun independents who decided that they could provide a more specialized local service on an as needed basis for multiple clients on a variety of issues without having to worry about monthly board meetings, annual convention planning and other extraneous demands. Jones, however, wasn't the first hired gun lobbyist or the originator of the contract lobbying team approach. In 1984, Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot assembled a group of lobbyists that included Rusty Kelley, Jack Gullahorn and Rick Salewin to push for a sweeping public education reform measure in a special session that year. More than a dozen years later Jones seemed to pattern HillCo at least loosely on the landmark lobby effort that led to House Bill 72. It was a basic team approach - and with an eye for top talent and a well-coordinated gameplan, Jones and Miller made it work. HillCo was the top lobby team last year and it's back on top in the lobby team competition once again.

The Texas Lobby Group appeared to be organized more as a way to have the freedom to take a call of public service without having to give up the farm. But with Mike Toomey back at the office - whether he's an official group member or not - the talented quartet that includes Lara Laneri Keel, Ellen Williams and Bill Messer might soon decide that it can do more with a coordinated team approach than working as mutual independents whose partnership is only incidental. Even if the team concept fails to materialize, the Texas Lobby Group can still do just fine with four individuals doing their own things especially if two of them happen to the two most successful lobbyists in town. The Lobby Group is the second rated lobby team this year.

Public Strategies Inc. shares some similarities with HillCo in its group approach. But Jack Martin's company has kept its focus global while devoting a limited number of bodies to the actual lobby posts. The firm's innovative, ambitious and ever-expanding nature seemed to make it unstoppable through the first decade - and talented professionals with major league reputations have flocked there to work. This year for the first time PSI appears to have entered a rare period of uncertainty as it implements some cost-cutting measures that could cost some employees their jobs. Unlike HillCo, lobbying was never the central focus. But with Rusty Kelley leading the lobby team, PSI will continue to be a major force at the Capitol even it's undergoing significant changes from within.

Galt Graydon's Graydon Group has an equally impressive collection of professionals that include Jay Brown, Machree Gibson, Jay Propes and Shannon Swan. Two big-ticket responsibilities this year will likely be the Graydon Group's representation of the Lone Star Park racetrack as it seeks permission to put up VLTs and its ongoing relationship with the Texas Association of Builders as its chief lobby team at the Texas Capitol. The list of clients is diversified - and while the staff is fairly small - it's steeped in experience and rated fourth overall in the lobby team category this year.

Business Partners LTD, which is led by former House Speaker Gib Lewis, and Stan Schlueter's newly-expanded firm, The Schlueter Group, are tied for fifth in the lobby team department this year. Schlueter has a new partner in Gwyn Shea, a former Secretary of State and ex-Republican House member who could help strengthen relationships with GOP leaders and legislators.


Locke Liddell has become the go-to law firm for lobbying needs for Houston power players such as Bob Perry, John Nau and Landry's restaurant CEO Tilman Fertitta in the city where the firm is based. Bruce LaBoon has moved to Austin where he enjoys a good working relationship with the lieutenant governor's office much like Robert Miller, the firm's public law chairman, does across the rotunda with House Speaker Tom Craddick's office. Locke Liddell attorney Bill Jones was Governor Rick Perry's general counsel until joining the law firm in late 2003. The firm has other members on the inside having a hand in the development of legislation on issues ranging from transportation to tort reform. Last year Locke Liddell reached beyond its Republican image and enlisted SDEC member Michael Harris for its public law team. Harris, a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, used to practice law with House Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner, who's one of the Democrats' most influential legislators at a time when there's a shortage of those.

Locke Liddell's approach to lobbying has been described as "cutting edge" for Texas - and one of its many innovative moves has been the establishment of a full-service communications department to help clients keep on top of the action affecting them at the state Capitol while facilitating media and public relations that will bring in even more business for the Austin office and others around the southwest. Locke Liddell began breaking ground in this area about three years ago when it hired Julie Gilbert, a former Houston Post reporter who handled press for Houston METRO, to be its director of strategic communications. But Gilbert doesn't just knock out press releases and clip stories out of newspapers to circulate to the staff. She's actually part of a team that meets with clients and helps them design individual gameplans suited for their particular communications needs. This service has enhanced an integrated approach that makes it easier for lawyers who are lobbyists to be proactive instead of trying to do damage control and try to undo legislation after the fact.

While the top-ranked law lobby practice is doing even better than a year ago, the firm that was number two a year ago is an even closer second this time around. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is a big player in Austin and even bigger in Washington D.C. where co-founder and partner Robert Strauss is based. Strauss is a former ambassador to Russia and an ex-Democratic National Committee chair and cabinet member who ran Jimmy Carter's White House campaigns. The Austin lobby team has stars such as Demetrius McDaniel - the preeminent African-American lobbyist in Austin and one of the overall best in the business since joining Akin Gump as a government consultant in the late 1980s. There's Jody Richardson, a former television reporter and anchorwoman who's been representing clients at the Capitol for more than 20 years. Akin Gump lobbyist Tom Bond is a former state insurance commissioner who's considered a top national expert on issues within that field. But a major reason that the Akin Gump lobby team's stock has gone up in recent months is because the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee looks just like an attorney who lobbies for the firm at the Texas Capitol. Akin Gump lawyer John Pitts' identical twin brother, Republican State Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, won the job as chief House budget writer late last year after Talmadge Heflin lost his re-election bid. That's a seriously good connection - especially when it's hard to tell the Pitts brothers apart.

The lobby law firm practice at Hughes Luce is a solid number three in this category with public policy group leader Jack Erskine and attorney Marc Shivers teaming with lobbyists who have done fine without law degrees such as Larry McGinnis and Myra Leo. The lobby teams for Jackson Walker, Vinson & Elkins and McGinnis Lochridge & Kilgore improved their standing on this year's power list.

Lobby practices at law firms such as Bracewell Patterson and Loeffler Tuggey Pauerstein Rosenthal might find themselves in more tenuous situations in Austin this year. Bracewell lawyer Pat Oxford is leading a campaign for governor that U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn't decided to make yet - and that may not help relations much with the current governor's office. Bracewell's David Thompson is the lead lawyer in the school finance lawsuit against the state. The San Antonio-based law firm run by former Congressman Tom Loeffler hired former Public Utility Commission Chairwoman Becky Klein to manage its Austin shop in the wake of her unsuccessful campaign for Congress last year. But the Loeffler law firm lost its top Austin lobbyist when James Jonas hit the road about the same time last year - and Klein might not be around that long with her name high on the list of potential Bush Administration appointees this spring.

The marquee new hire among law firm lobby teams in Austin in the past year came when Gardere Wynn signed Elton Bomer, a former state representative who served as insurance commissioner and secretary of state under George W. Bush before he left for the White House. Jackson Walker - ranked fifth in law firm lobby practice department this year - brought in Trey Blocker to team with lobbyists Kathy Hutto and former Austin school board president Ed Small. Blocker, who was State Senator Craig Estes' chief of staff and general counsel, also worked in George W. Bush's administration when he was governor.

Several members of Texas law firms with legislative teams don't actually lobby the Legislature because they belong to it. State Senator John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, holds the title "of counsel" at Locke Liddell. State Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth is a member of the Loeffler law firm at its home base in San Antonio.


The Texans for Lawsuit Reform isn't a typical state association that advocates for a particular profession or business in general like the other members of this important category in the power rankings this year. It derives its power in some ways from the ground up on the strength of an extensive grassroots base that includes businesses of all size and shapes across the state. Thanks to a dependable group of six-figure contributors such as Bob Perry, Harlan Crow and Robert McNair and a huge number of small donations from all across the state - TLR is more likely to have the undivided attention of legislators at the start of a session because it pours record sums of money into state political campaigns. Last year, for example, the lawsuit reform group contributed $2.3 million to candidates on the state level including several House Democrats who'd been targeted for defeat by the GOP. Two years before that TLR had been instrumental in electing a Republican majority to the House for the first time in more than a century. The group drew some grumbles from GOP partisans when it became an obstacle to a supermajority in 2004, but its leaders ignored the criticism while sticking by Democrats who'd back its push for medical malpractice liability limitations at the Capitol the year before.

TLR is the top-ranked private sector association and the most organized lobby force in general because it thinks so well outside the box. The group plays to win and gets rough when necessary - and its leaders are known for thinking inside the box as well. That's the "owners' box," the section of the House gallery where the TLR team hovered imposingly above the House floor taking names and notes on tort reform votes during the 2003. While other lobbyists are milling in the hall outside the Texas House during this year's regular session, don't be surprised if you see the TLR lobby team of Leo Linbeck, Dick Weekley, Richard Trabulsi and Matt Welch back in the gallery watching over when asbestos litigation reform comes up for debate this year.

The tort reform crusade, however, hasn't put all of the plaintiff trial lawyers in the state out of business yet. There are still enough of those to keep the Texas Trial Lawyers Association in the same league of competition as TLR's chief foe. TTLA contributed about $800,000 to state politics last year while a small group of personal injury lawyers operating as a new political action committee named Texans for Insurance Reform pumped almost $2 million more into the coffers of members who opposed Proposition 12 and other lawsuit limitations the year before. The trial lawyers organization has veterans Tommy Townsend and James Fields working with a team of free-lance lobbyists to try to stop the next wave of tort reform that will be rolling in this spring. TTLA is ranked second in the private associations category for the second year in a row.

The private sector association category has been expanded to 15 members in this year's power rankings. The bad news for the trial lawyers is that most if not all of the groups below them on the power list are on the other side in the lawsuit debate. The Texas Medical Association's lobby operations have recovered from a shakeup that followed its decision to support Democrat Tony Sanchez over Governor Rick Perry in 2002 - and the powerful physicians group this year will be using the same basic mix of staff and outside help for its lobbying needs that is relied on two years ago when the fallout was still thick. TMA brought Darren Whitehurst over from the Texas Hospital Association to be its new public affairs director last year - and he will team with a cadre of free-lancers including Elton Bomer, Don Gilbert, Bryan Eppstein and David Marwitz for TMA's efforts at the Capitol this year. Gilbert is a former health and human services commissioner. Bomer has held jobs as a state House member, insurance commissioner and secretary of state. Eppstein and Marwitz work together at the Eppstein Group, the top Republican consulting firm in the state for legislative races.

The 2005 team push comes on the heels of an election year in which TMA's political action committee, TEXPAC, spent $1.5 million in the state political arena. The only PAC that can top that is run by the Texas Association of Realtors, which contributed almost $1.7 million to state politics in 2004. Despite the loss of Bill Stinson, who left the association late last year, the realtors group will be expected to have a strong presence at the Capitol with Daniel Gonzalez and Mark Lehman teaming up with outside lobbyists such as Bill Messer, Walter Fisher and Louis Bacarisse.


The groups on this list have big stakes riding on the outcome of the regular session this year - especially with school finance on the front burner once again. The Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Association of School Administrators rank third and fifth respectively while the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, the Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas Federation of Teachers occupy positions four, six and seven. While longtime lobbyist Jay Levin has retired from TSTA, most of the lineups among the top-ranked public sector associations remains the same as two years ago.

TML estimates that one out of every four or five bills filed two years ago would have had a major impact on Texas cities - and it says that number could grow significantly in 2005. The counties organization has been blowing the whistle for the past two years on legislative policies that shift responsibilities from the state to the county level - and it's seriously concerned that the trend will continue as state legislators try to get by without major new taxes. TML is first again this year on the public sector list while TAC is right behind in second. The Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and Texas Conference of Urban Counties, which are ranked eighth and ninth respectively, will l share many of the same concerns as the session unfolds this spring.


The order is slightly different, but otherwise there's no major change on the corporate in-house power list. A major concern at the Captitol for all of these companies will be the Texas business tax structure and how legislators proposed to change it to help pay for local property tax cuts in a school finance plan. Working with independent outside lobbyists, the full-time corporate employees who lobby will be flexing muscle more than ever to protect their industries from policies that shift an excessive amount of the tax burden to them. SBC is the perennial number one choice in the corporate lobby category until someone knocks it out - and there's no sign of that happening anytime soon. The San Antonio-based phone company already has 50 lobbyists registered for the regular session - about half the number it would have by the midway point two years ago.


The Center for Public Policy Priorities takes the position to the left on many issues while the Texas Public Policy Foundation embraces the opposite point of view on the right. Both are new additions to this particular list in the second and third positions. United Ways of Texas has taken over the top spot in non-profit lobby department this year.

Bill Messer
Texas Lobby Group, Former State Representative, Speaker Tom Craddick Transition Team Member, Former House Calendars Chair, Former Texas Legislative Council Finance Chair
Mike Toomey
Texas Lobby Group, Former Chief of Staff to Governors Rick Perry and Bill Clerments, Former State Representative
Neal T. "Buddy" Jones
HillCo Partners, Former State Representative, Former Executive Assistant to Speaker Gib Lewis

Rusty Kelley
Public Strategies, Former Executive Assistant to Speaker Billy Clayton, Former House Sergeant-at-Arms

Elton Bomer
Gardere Wynn law firm, Former State Representative, Former Insurance Commissioner, Former Secretary of State
David Sibley
Former State Senator, Former Waco Mayor, Former Senate Economic Development Chair
Randy Erben
Former Office of State-Federal Relations Director, Former Asst. Secretary of State

Frank Santos
Santos Alliances, Former National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Consultant, Former State House Aide

Nora Del Bosque
Sister to Speaker Tom Craddick's Chief of Staff Nancy Fisher, Former State House Aide, Former House Appropriations Clerk
Stan Schlueter
The Schlueter Group, Former State Representative, Former House Ways and Means Chair

Gordon Johnson, Rob Johnson
Johnson & Johnson Law Firm, Sons of legendary parliamentarian Bob Johnson

Demetrius McDaniel
Akin Gump Law Firm Partner, Former Department of Agriculture Special Assistant, Former State House Aide
Galt Graydon
Graydon Group, Former Senate Aide, Former Senate Investigating Committee Counsel

Ron Lewis
Former State Representative, Former House Natural Resources Chair

Gib Lewis
Business Partners LTD, Former House Speaker, Former City Council Member
Clint Hackney
Former State Representative, Former House Elections Chair, Former House Energy Chair
J.E. "Buster" Brown
Former State Senator, Former Senate Natural Resources Chair, Former Assistant District Attorney
Robert Miller
Locke Liddell Law Firm Partner, Former Houston METRO Chairman, Former State Senate aide
Gaylord Armstrong
McGinnis Lochridge & Kilgore, Campaign Finance Consultant, Former Congressional Aide, Bush Pioneer
Andrea McWilliams, Dean McWilliams
Former Legislative Aides to Democratic and Republican Members, Bush Pioneers

Mignon McGarry
Former State Senate Aide


Don Gilbert
Former Health & Human Services Commissioner, Former MHMR Commissioner


Walter Fisher
Former Senate Parliamentarian, Former House Parliamentarian, Former Legislative Director for Texas Municipal League


Patricia Shipton
Former Legislative Director for Gov. Rick Perry

Jack Roberts
Former Deputy Comptroller

Steve Bresnen
Former General Counsel to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, Former Aide to Comptroller Bob Bullock


Jerry "Nub" Donaldson
Former State Representative, Texas Civil Justice League Chairman


Joe Bill Watkins
Vinson & Elkins Partner, Former Executive Asst. to Texas Attorney General, Veteran Campaign Strategist


Jim Warren
Former Aide to Secretary of State, Campaign Consultant


Nick Kralj
Former Aide to Ben Barnes as Speaker and Lt. Gov., Former Quorum Club Owner


Bill Siebert
Former State Representative


Joe Garcia
Garcia Group


Charlie Evans
Former State Representative


Al Erwin
Former PUC Commissioner, Former Advisor to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst


Jill Warren
Former Asst. AG, Former State Senate Aide, Former State House Aide, Former State House Candidate, Former State Liaison to National Association of Attorneys General

Karen A. Johnson
Infrastructure Solutions, Former Asst. AG, Bush Pioneer, Bush Mighty Texas Strike Force Leader
Chris Shields
Austin Legislative Services, Former Aide to Governor Bill Clements and Secretary of State Jack Rains

Marta Greytok
Greytok Consulting Group, Former PUC Commissioner, Former Taylor Lake Village Mayor


Steve Holzheauser
Former State Representative


Billy Phenix
Former Aide to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, Former State Senate Aide


Marc Rodriguez
Husband of Daughter of Gov. Rick Perry's Legislative Director Dan Shelley


Deborah Ingersoll
Legislative Solutions


Mario A. Martinez
Former State House Aide


Gilbert Turrieta
Former Houston Chamber of Commerce and Texas Medical Association Official, Former LBB Examiner


Louis Bacarisse
Former Aide to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock


Susan Longley
Former Aide to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock


Bill Pewitt
Bill Pewitt & Associates


Ron Hinkle
Former State House Sergeant at Arms, Former Texas Department of Commerce Official


Chuck Rice
BITL Partner, Former State Senate Aide, Former Texas Hospital Association Legislative Director


Gordon "Doc" Arnold
Former State Representative, Former Executive Assistant to Speaker Gib Lewis



Mike McKinney
Wholesale Beer Distributors


John Fainter
Association of Electric Companies

Rick Donley
Beer Alliance of Texas
Butch Sparks
Licensed Beverage Distributors
Tom Kleinworth
Baylor College of Medicine
Bill Allaway
Texas Taxpayers and Research Association
Will Newton
National Federation of Independent Business
Carol McDonald
Independent Colleges and Universities

Walter Hinojosa

Ace Pickens
Texas Medical Liability Trust
Tim Conger
Fleishman-Hillard, Former Aide to Speaker Gib Lewis



Bill Miller
HillCo Partners, Speaker Tom Craddick Transition Team Member, Former Owner MEM Hubble Communications


Reggie Bashur
Bashur, Carney & Sullivan, Republican Consultant, Former Press Secretary to Gov. Bill Clements, Former Aide to Gov. George W. Bush


Bryan Eppstein
Bryan Eppstein & Company, Republican Consultant

Todd Smith
IMPACT Texas, Republican Consultant, Former House Republican Caucus Executive Director, Former SREC Member

Ray Sullivan
Bashur, Carney & Sullivan, Former Press Secretary to Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, Former Deputy Press Secretary to Gov. George W. Bush


Lee Woods
Republican Consultant


Norman Newton
Associated Republicans of Texas Executive Director


Jim Arnold
Jim Arnold & Associates, Republican Consultant


James Mathis
Democratic Consultant


Chuck McDonald
McDonald & Associates, Former Press Secretary to Gov. Ann Richards



Jennifer Shelley Rodriguez
Former State House Aide, Daughter of Gov. Rick Perry's Legislative Director Dan Shelley


Arlene Wohlgemuth
Former State Representative, Former Johnson County Republican Chair

Barry Telford
Texas Retired Teachers Association, Former State Representative, Former House Calendars Chair

Jaime Capelo
Former State Represenative, Former House Public Health Chair, Former Corpus Christi City Councilman


Scott Norman
Texas Association of Builders Executive Director, Former State Senate Aide



Cathie Adams
Texas Eagle Forum President

Phil Stickland
Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission

Tom "Smitty" Smith
Public Citizen, Former State House Aide


Weston Ware
Texans Against Gambling


Suzi Woodford
Common Cause

Ken Kramer
Sierra Club
HillCo Partners
David Anderson, Hector Gutierrez, Jay Howard, Neal T. "Buddy" Jones, Bill Miller, J. McCartt, Dan Pearson, Clint Smith
Texas Lobby Group
Lara Laneri Keel, Bill Messer, Mike Toomey, Ellen Williams
Public Strategies
Rusty Kelley, Carol McGarah
Graydon Group
Jay Brown, Galt Graydon, Machree Gibson, Jay Propes, Shannon Swan
Business Partners LTD
Gib Lewis, Mike Millsap, Tom Treadway, Wayne Franke
The Schlueter Group
Eric Glenn, Stan Schlueter, Gwyn Shea


Locke Liddell & Sapp
Brian Cassidy, Gary Compton, Bill Jones, Michael Harris, Bruce LaBoon, Yuniedth Midence, Robert Miller, Alan Waldrop
Akin Gump
Tom Bond, Sandy Kress, Demetrius McDaniel, John Pitts, Jody Richardson, Barry Senterfitt
Hughes Luce
Jack Erskine, Myra Leo, Denice Marchman,
Larry McGinnis, Marc Shivers
Gardere Wynne Sewell
Elton Bomer, Steve Koebele, A.W. (Woody) Pogue, Carl Richie, Mark Vane, Kimberly Yelkin
Jackson Walker
Trey Blocker,  Kathy Hutto, Ed Small
Vinson & Elkins
Darrick Eugene, Brian Feld, Kimberly Frost, Susan Harris, John Howard, Elizabeth Rogers, Joe Bill Watkins
McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore
Gaylord Armstrong, Campbell McGinnis, Keith Strama
Bracewell Patterson
Jim Chapman, Shannon Ratliff II, David Thompson, Jill Warren
Baker Botts
Tristan Castaneda, Pamela Giblin, Robert Strauser
Loeffler Tuggey Pauerstein Rosenthal
Allen Beinke, Becky Klein, Lisa Mayes
Hance, Scarborough, Wright, Ginsberg
Kent Hance, Robert Floyd
Winstead, Sechrist & Minick
Robert Bass, Janis Carter
Kemp Smith
Clyde Alexander, Thomas Forbes
Thompson & Knight
Victor Alcorta
Bickerstaff Heath Smiley Pollan
Patty Akers, John Donisi, Myra McDaniel



Texans for Lawsuit Reform
Leo Linbeck, Richard Weekley, Richard Trabulsi, Matt Welch


Texas Trial Lawyers Association
Tommy Townsend, James Fields


Texas Medical Association
Darren Whitehurst


Texas Association of Business
Bill Hammond, Jack Campbell, Richard Evans, Mary Miksa, Lucinda Dean Saxon


Texas Association of Realtors
Daniel Gonzalez, Mark Lehman


Texas Civil Justice League
George Scott Christian, Jerry "Nub" Donaldson


Texas Oil & Gas Association
Rob Looney, Ben Sebree

Texas Farm Bureau
Billy Howe, Ken Hodges, Warren Mayberry

Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association
Kathy Grant

Associated General Contractors of Texas
Thomas Johnson
Texas Dental Association
Susan Ross
Texas Automobile Dealers Association
Tom Blanton
Texas Apartment Association
George Allen, David Mintz
Texas Chemical Council
Jon Fisher
Texas Credit Union League
Mance Bowden, James Gill, Carolyn Merchan Saegert



Texas Municipal League
Shanna Igo, Frank Sturzl


Texas Association of Counties
Carey Boethel


Texas Association of School Boards
Cathy Douglass, Catherine Clark


Texas Classroom Teachers Association
Holly Eaton, Ann Fickel, Lindsay Gustafson, Lonnie Hollingsworth, Jr., Jeri Stone


Texas Association of School Administrators
Amy Beneski, Johnny Veselka


Texas State Teachers Association
Donna Haschke, Jack Kelly, Richard Kouri


Texas Federation of Teachers
John Cole, Eric Hartman, Rene Lara


Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association
James Allison


Texas Conference of Urban Counties
Don Lee


Texas District and County Attorneys Association
Shannon Edmonds, Robert Kepple

Texas Public Employees Association
Gary Anderson



Lisa Hughes, Jan Newton, Leslie Ward


Thomas Clarke, Carl Erhart, Helen Soto Knaggs, Richard Lawson


Entergy/Gulf States
Parker McCullough

CenterPoint Energy
Jeff Bonham

Exxon Mobil
Lisa Lucero, Sara K. Tays


Paul Blanton, Curtis Seidlits


Michael Jewell


Electronic Data Systems
Sano Blocker, Lisa Garcia


Union Pacific Railroad
Ron Olson


Farmers Insurance
Frank Galitski


Zachry Group
Victoria Waddy

Stephen Perry
Marathon Oil
Hugo Gutierrez
Lyondell Chemical Company
Cindy McCauley
Nancy Sauer



United Ways of Texas
Karen R. Johnson, Melody Chatelle


Center for Public Policy Priorities
Anne Dunkelberg, Dick Lavine, Scott McCown


Texas Public Policy Foundation
Brooke Rollins, Michael Quinn Sullivan


Texas Rural Water Association
Tommy Duck, Kenneth Petersen


Texas PTA
Craig Tounget

Copyright 2003-2005 Capitol Inside
Photocopying, printing, or reproducing in any other form in whole or in part is a
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