1 Neal T. "Buddy" Jones
HillCo Partners, Ex-State Representative, Ex-House Speaker Gib Lewis Chief of Staff
2 Mike Toomey
Texas Capitol Group, Ex-State Representative, Ex-Chief of Staff to Govs. Rick Perry and Bill Clements
3 Robert Miller
Locke Lord Public Law Group Chair, Ex-Houston METRO Chairman, Ex-State Senate Aide
4 Rusty Kelley
Blackridge, House Speaker Billy Clayton Executive Assistant
5 Bill Messer
Texas Capitol Group, Ex-State Representative, Speaker Tom Craddick Transition Team
6 John Pitts
Texas Star Alliance, Ex-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock General Counsel and Senate Chaplain
7 Lara Keel
Texas Capitol Group, Ex-State Senate Aide, Red State Women President
8 Clint Hackney
Clint Hackney & Company, Ex-State Representative
9 Ron Lewis
Ron Lewis & Associates, Ex-State Representative
10 Trey Blocker
Blocker Group, Ex-State Senator Craig Estes Chief of Staff and General Counsel
11 Mark Vane
Gardere Wynne Sewell, Ex-Texas House Legislative Director
12 Deirdre Delisi
Delisi Communications, Ex-Transportation Commission Chair, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager
13 Curt Seidlits
Focused Advocacy, Ex-State Representative
14 Steve Bresnen
Ex-Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock General Counsel
15 Jay Howard
HillCo Partners, Son of Ex-State Senator
16 Billy Phenix
Texas Capitol Group, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and State Senate Advisor
17 Luis Saenz
McGuireWoods, Gov. Greg Abbott Appointments Director, Ex-Rick Perry Campaign Manager and Ex-Asst. Sec. of State
18 Jim Grace
Grace & McEwan, Former Campaign Advisor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant and Afghanistan Veteran
19 Stan Schlueter
Schlueter Group, Ex-State Representative
20 Chris Shields
Texas Strategy Group, Ex-ov. Bill Clements Aide and Asst. Secretary of State
21 Gardner Pate
Locke Lord, Gov. Greg Abbott Campaign General Counsel
22 Royce Poinsett
Gardere, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry, Speaker Tom Craddick, Gov. George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Advisor
23 Jay Brown
Jay P. Brown Consulting, Son of Ex-State Senator, Ex-Federal Judge Briefing Attorney
24 Jay Propes
Graydon Group, Ex-Congressional Aide, Ex-Trade Association Executive
25 Mark Miner
McGuireWoods, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and RNC Communications Director
26 Mindy Ellmer
Ex-State House and Senate Aide, Ex-Gov. Bill Clements Aide
27 Sabrina Thomas Brown
Ex-Texas House aide and Appropriations Committee Clerk
28 Michelle Wittenburg
Ex-Speaker Tom Craddick General Counsel
29 Kathy Hutto
Jackson Walker, Ex-Sunset Advisory Commission Staff
30 Denise Davis
Davis Kaufman, Ex-Speaker Joe Straus Chief of Staff, Ex-House Parliamentarian and General Counsel, Ex-Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff General Counsel
31 Marsha Jones
HillCo Partners, Ex-Texas House and Senate Aide
32 Eric Glenn
Schlueter Group, Ex-Texas House Aide, Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute Board
33 Bruce Scott
Ex-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Advisor, Ex-Senate Business and Commerce Committee Director
34 Brandon Aghamalian
Focused Advocacy, Ex-Chief of Staff to State Sen. Kim Brimer, Ex-Fort Worth Public Affairs Director
35 Carol McGarah
Blackridge, Ex-Texas Senate Aide
35 Adam Goldman
Windmill Consulting, Ex-President George W. Bush Special Assistant, State Rep. Craig Goldman's Brother
36 James Mathis
Ex-John Sharp Campaign Manager
37 Craig Chick
Capitol Partners Consulting, Ex-Speaker Joe Straus Advisor
38 Mark Malone
M Group Strategies, Ex-Lobbyist for Major Electric Utilities Firm
39 Dean & Andrea McWilliams
Ex-Legislative Aides to Democratic and Republican Members
40 J. McCartt
HillCo Partners, Ex-Aide to Rick Perry in the Lieutenant Governor's Office
41 Kathy Grant
Ex-Texas Cable Television Association Government Relations Director, Ex- Texas House Aide
42 Lisa Kaufman
Davis Kaufman, Ex-Speaker Joe Straus Policy Director, Ex-State Senator Robert Duncan General Counsel
43 Deborah Ingersoll
Legislative Solutions, Key Fundraiser
44 Mark Borskey
Ex-Deputy Legislative Director for Gov. Rick Perry, Ex-Texas House Aide
45 Snapper Carr
Focused Advocacy General Counsel, Ex-Texas Municipal League Counsel
46 Keith Strama
Beatty Bangle Strama, Ex-Texas House Aide
47 Eric Wright
Congress Avenue Partners, Ex-Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff Chief of Staff
48 Trent Townsend
Imperium Public Affairs, Ex-State Senator Kirk Watson Chief of Staff, Ex- State Senator Kim Brimer Legislative Director
49 Carl Richie
Ex-Gov. Ann Richards Deputy Chief of Staff, Ex- Texas Ethics Commission Director
50 Brad Shields
Texas Legislative Associates, Ex-Eanes School Board
51 Michael Grimes
Imperium Public Affairs, Ex-State Senator Chris Harris Chief of Staff, Ex-Gov. George W. Bush Aide
52 Carrie Simmons
Texas Capitol Group, Ex-House GOP Caucus Director, Ex-State Senator Larry Taylor Aide, Red State Women Officer
53 Micah Rodriguez
Blackridge, Ex-Senate Hispanic Caucus Director, Ex-State Senator Carlos Uresti and John Whitmire Aide
54 Nef Partida
Locke Lord, Former Campaign Consultant for Democratic and Republican Campaigns
55 Amy Maxwell
Ex-Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel, Ex-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn Aide
56 Mia McCord
Ex-State Senator Kelly Hancock Chief of Staff, Ex-State Rep. Elvira Reyna Aide, Red State Women Director
57 Mignon McGarry
Ex-State Senate Aide
58 John Pitts Jr.
Texas Star Alliance, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry Aide and Campaign Staff
59 Wayne Hamilton
San Jacinto Public Affairs, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry Advisor, Ex-Texas GOP Director
60 Shayne Woodard
Ex-Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson Chief of Staff, Ex-State Senator Bill Sims and State Rep. David Counts Aide
61 Michael Johnson
Ex-Blackridge, Brother of Major GOP Consultant Rob Johnson
62 Bill Pewitt
Bill Pewitt & Associates, Texas Computer Industy Council Founder
63 Joey Bennett
Ex-Public Strategies Lobbyist
64 Drew Campbell
Ex-Dallas Automobile Dealers Association Official
65 Gavin Massingill
Ex-State Rep. Charlie Geren Chiwef of Staff
66 Mario Martinez
Mario Martinez & Associates, Ex-Aide State Rep. Tom Uher Aide
67 Marc Rodriguez
Ex-San Antonio Government Affairs Manager and Chamber Executive
68 Stephanie Gibson
Texas Legislative Associates, Ex-Texas Retailers Association Vice President
69 Robert Peeler
Longbow Partners, Ex-State Senate Chief of Staff and Gov. George Bush Aide
70 Jim Dow
Cross Oak Group, Ex-Texas 20/20 PAC Director, Ex-Texas House Aide, Ex-Obama White House Aide
71 Nora Del Bosque
Ex-State House Aide and Appropriations Committee Clerk
72 Frank Santos
Santos Alliances, Ex-National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Consultant, Ex-House Aide
73 Jody Richardson
Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, Ex-TV Reporter
74 Joe Garcia
Texas Capitol Group, Ex- State Senator Eddie Lucio Chief of Staff
75 Chris Hosek
Texas Star Alliance, Ex-Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones Chief of Staff
76 Jennifer Rodriguez
McGuireWoods, Daughter of Ex-State Legislator and Gubernatorial Advisor
77 Tristan “Tris” Castañeda
Longbow Partners, Ex-Asst. Attorney General, Ex-San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros Aide
78 Gilbert Turrieta
Ex-Houston Chamber, TMA Official and LBB Examiner
79 Amy Beard
Windmill Consulting, Ex-Senate Asst. Sgt. at Arms, Center for Child Protection Board
80 Colin Parrish
Ex-Gov. Rick Perry Budget Advisor, Ex-State Rep. Wayne Smith Chief of Staff
81 Shannon Swan
Graydon Group, Ex-Texas House Chief of Staff
82 Eric Woomer
Congress Avenue Partners, Ex-State Senators Kel Seliger, Teel Bivins and Mario Gallegos Chief of Staff, Ex-U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Aide
83 Chuck Rice
Chuck Rice Group, Ex-State Senate Aide and Texas Hospital Association Official
84 Nancy Fisher
Ex-Speaker Tom Craddick Chief of Staff, Ex-Texas Racing Commission Executive Director
85 Will Yarnell
Ex-Chief Advisor to Texas House Democrat
86 Kwame Walker
McGuireWoods, Ex-State Senator Royce West Legislative Director and General Counsel
87 Robert Culley
Ex-Legislative Aide
88 Eddie Solis
HillCo Partners, Ex-Special Assistant at the Texas Comptroller's Office, Ex-Texas Municipal Retirement System Official
89 Curtis Fuelberg
Ex-Texas Association of Realtors Official, Ex-Speaker Gus Mutscher Aide
90 Mike Meroney
Meroney Public Affairs, Ex-U.S. Senate Aide and Congressional Campaign Staff
91 Michelle Smith
Hillco Partners, Daughter of Ex-State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock
92 Stephen Koebele
Ex-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn General Counsel, Ex-Gov. George W. Bush Aide
93 Susan Ross
Ex-Texas Dental Association Public Affairs Director
94 James Clark
Ex-John Sharp Campaign Manager and Jim Mattox Campaign Aide
95 Shannon Phillips Meroney
Meroney Public Affairs, Ex-Aetna Lobbyist, Ex-Trade Association President
96 Ron Hinkle
Ex-Texas Department of Economic Development Official, Ex-Texas House Sergeant at Arms
97 Jack Roberts
Ex-Deputy Comptroller
98 Michael Jewell
Stratus Policy Group, Corporate Lawyer and Legislative Lobbyist
99 Brett Findley
Longbow Partners, Ex-State Senate Chief of Staff
100 Gerald Valdez
Ex-Texas Department of Economic Development Official
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, 2017

Rick Perry Rise from Political Dead Could
Have Real or Imaginary Lobby Clout Value

Women Riding Crest of Texas Lobby Tsunami

Professional Advocacy Association of Texas

Dozens of former Rick Perry team players had been resigned to having to reinvent careers without that golden connection after the West Texan gave up the job that he'd had for 14 years and launched a bid for the White House with felony criminal charges hanging over his head in 2015. The former Democratic state lawmaker who'd won three separate statewide offices as a Republican convert appeared to have a better shot in 2016 as a reality TV contestant on Dancing with the Stars than he'd had as a national candidate who'd been out on bond during his second consecutive ill-fated race for the presidency.

The odds of Perry going to prison seemed substantially higher 18 months ago than his chances of being elected to be the American commander in chief. The Perry alumni who'd capitalized on their association with him had to be shaking their heads in disbelief when they learned that he'd been trying to make a fast buck peddling some computer program to folks he'd appointed to state boards and commissions after pulling the plug on the presidential campaign as one of the earliest casualties. Some longtime Perry loyalists thought he'd gone off the deep end of desperation last spring when he made an overnight transformation into the role of Donald Trump yell leader after trashing the New York billionaire ballistically when the two had been rivals on the campaign trail several months earlier. Perry's name high on a resume was losing its sparkle fast back in the state that he'd led longer than any of the Texans who'd served as governor before him.

But the craziest election in the history of the planet produced one of its most improbable twists last month when Trump awarded Perry for the late-train about-face by selecting him to be the first secretary of energy in a cabinet that went to work officially with the new president's inauguration late last week. Back on the ranch inside the Texas Capitol beltway, the lobbyists who'd had more than tenuous ties to Perry saw their stock shoot up the moment Trump's camp revealed that the ex-governor would be waltzing to Washington in January to take the reins at the massive federal agency that he'd wanted to eliminate the first time he ran for president. The magic was back - and the Capitol Inside Texas Lobby Power Rankings for 2017 are a reflection of the Perry resurrection as far as the professional advocates who'd had key parts in the new energy czar's past are concerned.

It doesn't really matter that the new Perry cabinet post may offer no real practical value in the Texas Capital City that's more than 1,500 miles from where his new office will be. The former governor's title in the Trump administration is somewhat deceiving because it implies that he will be a major mover and shaker in the regulation of the oil and gas industry that's long been king back in his home state, But Perry's actual focus as the energy secretary will be on the management of nuclear waste, reactors and weapons that the Texas lobby members who are in tight with him know very little about.

But don't kid yourself - the executives in the oil and gas business and other industries are going to be tempted to hire old Perry associates, operatives and pals who are registered to lobby in Austin if they haven't already amid visions of access in a brand new White House that they expect to be much friendlier than the Obama administration had been. It's a delusion that could pay significant dividends for lobbyists in Texas with Perry connections regardless of whether that ever translates into tangible gains for clients here or anywhere else.

The Texas political professional who probably stands to benefit the most from the former governor's new station if he chooses is Rob Johnson - a veteran GOP strategist who hasn't been a registered lobbyist in Texas and may not be planning to be here anytime soon. But Johnson had been a top advisor to Perry in races for governor and president - and he traveled to Washington with the cabinet appointee last week to help guide him through the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing that he apparently passed based on reports from the nation's capitol. Johnson's recent role has sparked speculation about the prospects of him launching a lobby career at the federal level where he could expect an open door at the Department of Energy whenever he had business to do there for the next few years if all goes well.

Austin consultant Jeff Miller - a California transplant who Perry enlisted as a major advisor for his second bid for the White House - could follow the ex-governor to Washington to jump start a lobby career that he'd had in Sacramento with a new focus on issues that the DOE oversees. Miller joined the Dallas-based tax services firm that Britt Ryan runs a year ago when Perry's political career appeared to be history. Some of the Texas Capitol lobbyists who'd been key figures in Perry's past could decide to branch out to Washington on a temporary part-time basis in hopes of making the most of a rare opportunity without uprooting established practices here.

Back in the energy secretary's old stomping grounds, Mike Toomey has long been viewed as the lobbyist who'd been closest to Perry throughout the past two decades or more. While Toomey could generate some quick business in Washington if he felt like spending some time there in the near future, the cabinet selection can't do much to boost his standing on the Texas contract lobbyist rankings considering the fact that he'd been rated no lower than second in the early stages of the last three regular legislative sessions. Toomey - a former Perry Texas House colleague who'd been a major architect of the GOP takeover here - is higher on the new hired guns list than any other lobbyist with the exception of Neal T. "Buddy" Jones of HillCo Partners fame.

Some Perry people have moved up the contract lobbyist chain however as a result of the boost in business and sway that they might have a shot to secure if they the cabinet coronation to their advantage while the joy ride lasts. There are Deirdre Delisi and Ted Delisi as prime examples - a married couple who'd both been major Team Perry players before he inherited the governor's job in 2001. The female Delisi served as a Perry campaign manager and chief of staff in the governor's office before he appointed her to chair the Texas Transportation Commission. Her husband had been Perry's campaign mail director for years before branching out on his own in a lobby venture that's included his wife and his mother who's a former state representative herself. The Delisi duo has vaulted into the top 15 on the hired gun list after being ranked 22nd two years ago.

Austin lobbyist Ray Sullivan had been a fixture in the Perry camp as a former chief of staff and communications director who had key roles in the new energy secretary's campaigns for governor and president. Sullivan, who'd been ranked high on the list of political consultants who lobby during the last three bienniums, may have had a chance to take his talents to the U.S. Department of Energy for a high-level part there based on state Capitol hallway chatter. But Sullivan appears to be sticking around Austin for the time being with 39 lobby clients now after registering to represent 19 on average in first two regular sessions as a lobbyist. The timing of the Sullivan business surge and his old boss' enlistment in the Trump cabinet could be purely coincidence. He's been ranked in the specialty category instead of the hired gun because he's juggled the lobbyist with work as a consultant.

Deirdre Delisi is currently registered to lobby in Austin for 20 clients - the same basic number she had in the stable at some point in the entire calendar years of 2015 and 2013. But the Delisi client list has more than 11 months to grow in 2017 and probably will regardless of whether the Perry revival is a factor in that respect.

Billy Phenix - a Toomey and Messer associate who was Perry's first natural resources and environmental policy director in the governor's office - has landed in the top 20 on the contract lobbyists list for the first time as someone who'd been ranked almost that high for more than a decade. Phenix, who's an attorney, worked for leaders on both sides of the aisle at the Capitol without getting caught in the partisan stereotype trap. One of the lobby's most likeable members, Phenix had been a special assistant to Democrat Bob Bullock in the lieutenant governor's office in the 1990s before a stint as general counsel for the Senate Natural Resources Committee that a Republican was chairing. He joined the Akin Gump law firm staff in 2000 before returning to public service eight months later when Perry inherited the governor's job after George W. Bush gave it up to become president.

Austin lobby partners Luis Saenz and Mark Miner at the firm McGuireWoods are longtime Perry associates who'd served as a campaign manager and press secretary respectively for the nation's new energy agency boss. Saenz has returned to lobby that he could find more lucrative than ever after a hiatus as Governor Greg Abbott's first appointments director. Saenz had served as an assistant secretary of state under Perry before joining his political operation.

Not all of the lobbyists who could cash in on the Perry cabinet appointment had been on his campaign team or the government staffs that he'd assembled as the governor, lieutenant governor and agriculture commissioner. A pair of top 10 hired gun lobbyists - Clint Hackney and Ron Lewis - had served with Perry in the Texas House when all three had been Democrats. While Lewis has been close to Perry ever since, Hackney goes back even farther as one of the new energy secretary's fellow Corps of Cadets members back when they were students at Texas A&M University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hackney focuses on the state Capitol where he has strong relationships with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Abbott and lawmakers from both parties, he already knows his way around Washington where he's been registered to lobby throughout the past decade for a number of clients who have business at the state and federal levels including some in the energy sector. The potential for profit with someone he's known well for most of a half-century in the new cabinet could simply depend on how much time he could afford to spend away from his home base where most of his business is done.

Former Texas Senate Democrat Ken Armbrister - a key player on top 10 lobbyist John Pitts' team at Texas Star Alliance - has experience on both sides of the Perry line as someone who served with the newly-christened secretary of energy in the state House long before a stint as his legislative director in the governor's office. Armbrister served two full decades in the Legislature's upper chamber after five years in the House in the 1980s. Armbrister is ranked high on a special lobby list for former lawmakers.

Several other former Perry advisors including Royce Poinsett, David White, J McCart and Mark Borsky are ranked high on the contract lobbyist list as well.

With no major statewide offices on the ballot last year - and no real reason to anticipate a Trump trickle-down effect on the lobby here - Perry's return from the political grave is the only spinoff from the 2017 elections that's evident in the new rankings of lobbyists at the Capitol in Texas. But the potential bump in business here for lobbyists who've been tied inextricably to the new secretary of energy won't guarantee practical production at the statehouse for clients who might be confusing the DOE with the Texas Railroad Commission as far as the two agencies' very different missions go.


Women Riding the Crest of Lobby Tsunami
Amid Competition Surge that's Off the Charts

The potential Rick Perry connection effect is a one-time sidebar to a biennial narrative about an Austin lobby that's being flooded in record numbers with new talent that's loaded with potential that hasn't been tested yet.

But the most important story line in the proliferation of lobbyists here centers on a glass ceiling that appears to be thinning considerably. The number of women who've registered to lobby in Texas has surged in the past few years - and more of the female practitoners who'd already established themselves appear to have more sway than ever at the outset of the 2017 regular session.

Austin lobbyist Lara Keel - as a prime example - is the first woman in the past 12 years to be ranked among the ten most powerful hired guns at the Texas Capitol. She's only the second female to have that distinction since the lobby rankings were conceived in 2003. Keel had been moving up the ladder for several years as one of Mike Toomey's original partners at the Texas Lobby Group that they got off the ground in 2002 during Rick Perry's first year as governor.

There are more women than ever rated among the top 50 hired guns now with 15 in 2017 compared to 11 in the early stages of the last regular session two years ago. But the most telling indicator on the upswing in women lobbyists here is the fact that 13 out of 25 newcomers on the rising stars list are females. Eleven of 20 lobbyists on the rookies list in 2015 were women.

Two of the new rising stars have names that are familiar in state political and government circles. Veteran Capitol professional Julia Rathgeber is ranked second on the newcomer list as a former Texas insurance commissioner who'd been a high-ranking official on Governor Greg Abbott's staff after working under Republican David Dewhurst and Democrat Bob Bullock in the lieutenant governor's office. Rathgeber has some big shoes to fill as the new president for the Association of Electric Companies of Texas that legendary lobbyist John Fainter had represented for years before retiring. Rathgeber is a five-star hire for the statewide group that looks out for the interests of the state's major power companies.

Rose Vela - a former state district judge and appellate court justice - has entered the lobby profession as well as one of the top five rising stars in 2017 along with new Capitol Strategy Associates partner Steve Ray. Vela had been elected to the bench initially as a Democrat before switching to the GOP and falling short eventually in a Texas Supreme Court that current Justice Eva Guzman ended up winning. While Ray has been the chief political advisor to one of the Legislature's most powerful Republicans in State Rep. Todd Hunter, Vela should be able to work both sides of the aisle well in light of her Republican credentials and the fact that her husband is Democratic U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of South Texas.

The lion's share of new lobbyists in Austin for GOP statewide leaders and legislators like Speaker Joe Straus, Abbott and an array of senators and other representatives as well. Rick Dennis - a former chief of staff to House Republican Caucus Chairman Tan Parker - is rated on the rookie list as a new member of the powerhouse lobby first HillCo Partners. Another lobbyist that's high on the rising stars list - Crystal Ford - has joined the stellar team at the Locke Lord law firm after a stint as the chief of staff for Democratic State Rep. Carol Alvarado of Houston. Ford has a chance to become one of the most influential African-American lobbyists in Austin with Locke Lord team captain Robert Miller as a mentor.

Miller has built the Locke Lord shop into a fixture at the pinnacle of the list of law firm lobby practices since the category's inception 12 years ago. Miller's focus on a successful teamwork approach has fueled his individual stock value - and he's the first contract lobbyist to crack a Mount Rushmore-like monopoly that veteran professional advocates Rusty Kelley, Bill Messer, Mike Toomey and Buddy Jones had at the top of the hired guns list for the past dozen years until now. An attorney who entered the political arena as a state Senate aide, Miller has become a fundraising maestro for Republican candidates in the Houston area where he's based. Miller has a strong relationship with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick - a staunch conservative who some lobbyists haven't seen as assessable as other major state leaders during his first two years on the job as the Texas Senate president.

But Miller worked hard to ensure this the lobby group that he leads reflects the Capitol's bipartisan complexion and diversity with a prism of concentration that's tailored for each team member's unique background. Locke Lord lobbyist Gardner Pate as cracked the top 20 on the hired guns list for the first time as the lawyer for Governor Greg Abbott's political operation. So the Big Four - for the record - is now the Big Five with Miller ranked third on the hired gun list in 2017.

Trey Blocker has made the longest jump on the lobby rankings this year - soaring into the 10th spot on the hired guns list after being ranked in the mid-thirties just two years ago. Blocker has gained a reputation as a lobbyist to call for emergency situations - and he's one of the first names that come up consistently when competitors are talking about whose stock has gone up in value in the shortest amount of time. Blocker has started his own firm called the Blocker Group to help handle the surge in business that the accolades have triggered.

Mark Vane is closing in on the top 10 in the number 11 spot on the hired guns list as a result of the job he's done in recent years as the field general for the Gardere law firm team that features veteran lobbyist Kim Yelkin as its senior member and leader. Gardere has two contract lobbyists ranked in the top 25 for the first time with Royce Poinsett taking a significant leap up as one of Vane's former University of Texas law school classmates who's his main lobby partner now. The Gardere team ranks a strong second on the law firm lobby practices list where it's been now for four consecutive regular sessions.

HillCo Partners has been the model for the lobby team concept at the statehouse in Austin - and Jay Howard has climbed into the top 15 on the hired gun list where colleagues Marsha Jones and J. McCartt are ranked among the 50 highest contract lobbyists this year. HillCo's founders - Buddy Jones and Bill Miller - are both hall of famers whose shop has crowned the Texas lobby teams list for years.

The Texas Capitol Group that's been the second-ranked team during that time has three of its members ranked among the 10 most powerful contract lobbyists for the first time with Keel joining Toomey and Messer in that elite league. But the Texas Capitol Group is an umbrella for a collection of separate firms and individuals who work together at times and independently at others.

The Texas Star Alliance firm that John Pitts leads has vaulted into the number three spot on the lobby teams chart after being ranked fifth two years ago. Pitts has assembled the largest group of professional advocates in the Lone Star State in a relatively short period of time since launching the lobby shop about five years ago when his twin brother was one of the Legislature's most influential members as the House Appropriations Committee chairman. But Jim Pitts' departure from the House two years ago didn't seem to slow the expansion plans that have been in perpetual motion at brother John's firm with former GOP State Senator Van Taylor staffer Jordan Williford as a key addition to the team last year.

Pitts had overseen the development of the state's first major water plan in the 1990s while serving as Democrat Bob Bullock's general counsel in the lieutenant governor's office. Pitts has stressed the importance of policy expertise on a Texas Star Alliance team that features several former state agency leaders including John Specia - an attorney who Rick Perry had appointed five years ago as the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner after a long career on the bench in Bexar County as a state district judge. Pitts seems to view the lobby team as a family - so it's no surprise that one of its up-and-coming members happens to be John Pitts Jr.

Texas Capitol veteran Rusty Kelley's team at the boutique lobbying firm Blackridge has been a major force inside the Austin beltway since he and lobby partner Carol McGarah started it up about 10 years ago. Kelley - a former top aide to conservative Democrat Billy Clayton in the Texas House speaker's office - had been one of the most powerful independent lobbyists in Austin for two decades when he enlisted McGarah has a teammate around the start of the current century. While Kelley has long been one of the most effective and respected lobbyists in the Capital City, McGarah's expertise on clean air and water issues is arguably unrivaled within the profession here as a former Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee director for senators from both parties during the 1990s. The addition of Jessica Oney to the roster as a former energy company lobbyist will strengthen the Blackridge team even more.

One of the newest lobby teams at the Texas Capitol sprouted when Jim Grace and Jennifer McEwan started their own firm after working together in the Greenberg Traurig law firm shop. Grace and Gardere lobbyist Royce Poinsett had been stars on the team that Baker Botts had fielded here before following the lead of other international law firms and shifting its emphasis from statehouse lobbying to a more global approach with a heavy focus on Washington. Grace has priorities that transcend his profession as someone who took a leave of absence several years ago for a tour of duty in Afghanistan after joining the Navy as a 40-year-old. He's soared into the top 20 on the soldiers of fortune list for contract lobbyists as a fledgling Grace & McEwan co-founder.

The perennial flow of former state lawmakers into the Austin lobby will feature some marquee names if some of the people who left the Legislature last month register to lobby during the regular session as expected. Speculation at the statehouse has centered on Republican Troy Fraser of Horsshoe Bay as a likely lobbyist for utilities in the wake of his departure of the Texas Senate where he served for two decades after a five-year stint in the House.

Some lobbyists are predicting that Republican Jim Keffer of Eastland will join their ranks after stepping down this month from the House where he'd been one of GOP Speaker Joe Straus' highest-ranking lieutenants and original supporters. Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer and Republican Doug Miller may be poised to lobby as well after losing bids for the Senate and re-election last year in a primary election and runoff respectively. None of that former lawmaking quartet had registered to lobby with the Texas Ethics Commission by the end of the session's second week. They will be added to the list for ex-legislators who lobby now if and when their names do appear on the state agency's registration rolls.

While some legislators enter the lobby as midlife career moves, the influx of younger lobbyists who worked for elected politicians without ever being elected themselves continues to magnify at monumental rates. That's culminated in an inevitable slide down the power ladder for many of the most experienced lobbyists in a town where they'd been ranked high on the lists for years. The longtime lobbyists who'd been associated with Democrats when they entered the business have found themselves competing increasingly with youngsters who'd actually worked on the staffs and campaigns for the leaders and legislators they're getting paid to lobby now. The challenge intensifies exponentially as the number of freshmen legislators goes up every two years. But that doesn't mean that the old pros who may not be ranked on the hired guns chart aren't just as effective as ever despite the kind of competition they couldn't have imagined when they were young lions in the lobby themselves.


Jack Erskine
Galt Graydon
Robert Johnson
Demetrius McDaniel
Bill Miller
Tommy Townsend
Don Adams
Gaylord Armstrong
Dick Brown
Billy Clayton
Jerry "Nub" Donaldson
Jack Gullahorn
Ed Howard
Dickie Ingram
Neal T. "Buddy" Jones
Rusty Kelley
Gib Lewis
Bill Messer
Stan Schlueter
Mike Toomey

Texas Lobby Hall of Fame Welcomes
First New Inductees Since Inception

Some of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history have been banished from the league's ring of honor because they ostensibly cheated by using performance enhancing drugs during their careers. But that's not the case with the Lone Star State lobby legends who seemed to be born with steroids in their blood based their work as professional public advocates

The Texas Lobby Hall of Fame is getting its first batch of new names since Capitol Inside created it in 2005 with an original roster that featured 14 charter members. The six new inductees in 2017 include five who are still going strong in the trade that they were plying with a passion at the statehouse in Austin before some of their youngest competitors had even been born. One is being honored here posthumously.

The second wave of honorees - like the original lobby hall of fame inductees - were members of the first generation of contract lobbyists who represented multiple clients at the Capitol the way most lawyers do in the courthouse. The older-school lobbyists before them had usually worked for singular entities like professional associations or corporations or local governments unless they'd been attorneys whose legal clients had business at the statehouse that they could handle as well.

But nine of the public advocates on the debut hall of fame list had been state lawmakers themselves before following the revolving door into the lucrative field of a lobby that they helped reshape. None of the current and former lobbyists who we're recognizing now ever served in the Legislature that became their economic lifeblood. That's a very telling difference when comparing the Austin lobby of the last century to the profession as its exists today. The folks who'd been in the Texas House or the Senate or both could hang out shingles with instant credibility that most aspiring lobbyists who hadn't been lawmakers had to spend years earning. The ever-increasing amount of competition that lobbyists in Texas encounter now has effectively rendered the fast track of the past obsolete. Lobby hall of fame status in contemporary Texas - as a consequence - will keep getting harder to come by regardless of profit margin and rankings.

One of the new hall of famers - Tommy Townsend - had been a true lobby giant under the pink granite dome as the Texas Trial Lawyers Association executive director for 23 years before he died in late 2013 after a brief illness.

Townsend's career at the Capitol spanned more than four decades after getting under way with a seven-year stint as the Texas Senate sergeant at arms. He'd been a high-ranking official at the Texas Association of Realtors before joining the TTLA at a time when trial lawyers all but owned the Texas Democratic Party when Democrats were still running the state. Townsend had been telling people that he'd planned to retire within a few years before passing away at the age of 70. The late TTLA leader's son Trent Townsend has become one of the Austin lobby's most influential contract lobbyists since entering the business about six years ago.

Another 2017 inductee - William J. "Bill" Miller - could have a separate hall of fame all to himself in light of the unique path that he's carved as a political professional whose influence has extended far beyond the lobby's traditional boundaries. Miller teamed up with charter hall of fame member Neal T. Buddy" Jones to form the Austin firm HillCo Partners in the late 1990s in a move that revolutionized the lobby here by bringing the team concept into fashion. While Jones has made the top of the hired gun rankings for contract lobbyists into his personal hangout, Miller is a more mercurial force of nature who could turn up at some famous movie director's house in Palm Springs if he's not in Rome arranging meetings for clients with the Pope. You assume that something big is about to go down when you see him up in the hall outside the Texas House or the Senate as though he were just another run-of-the-mill lobbyist.

The incoming hall of fame class includes Demetrius McDaniel, Robert Johnson, Galt Graydon and Jack Erskine - a quartet of lobbyists who are still some of the best in the business here with no apparent plans of winding it down anytime soon. McDaniel has been one of the most successful African-American lobbyists in Texas as the leader of the Greenberg Traurig law firm team at the statehouse here. While McDaniel has been consistently ranked among the top 10 contract lobbyists in Austin during the past decade, he and the other hall of fame inductees who are still active have all been elevated from the hired gun chart to the more elite list where they've been assigned for the current biennium.

Graydon and Erskine are both major league team leaders as well as the lead lobbyists for the Graydon Group and the K&L Gates law firm shop in Austin. Graydon and Erskine - like all of the hall of fame members who are still in the game - have perfected the art of adaptability as professional advocates who'd become stars when Democrats controlled a state where the lobby is more fiercely competitive now and overrun with young Republicans.

Johnson falls in that same basic category as a veteran lobbyist who's the son of the late Bob Johnson - a former state representative who'd devoted his life to public service with stints as the House and Senate parliamentarian and the Texas Legislative Council executive director after leaving elected office in the early 1960s. Johnson has been a perennial name on the top 10 contract lobbyist list as well for the past eight years. He'd been ranked among the 13 most powerful hired gun lobbyists here during the regular sessions in 2005 and 2007. Johnson got a bump up the chart when his lobby partner and brother Gordon Johnson took a temporary leave of absence in early 2009 to run Joe Straus' political operation after the San Antonio Republican won the House speaker's job. The younger brother hasn't returned to the Johnson & Johnson law firm lobby shop as quickly as expected, however, because the speaker keeps persuading him to stay put after every winning leadership contest. Gordon Johnson's eventual induction into the lobby hall of fame will be a foregone conclusion once he does get back in the business full-time whenever Straus decides to give up the speaker's post that appears to be his as long as he wants.

The elder Townsend joins former House Speaker Billy Clayton, Ed Howard and Dickie Ingram on the list of Texas Lobby Hall of Fame members who are deceased. Clayton - a conservative West Texas Democrat who led the lower chamber for four terms until stepping down as speaker in 1983 - died in early 2007 at the age of 78.

Howard served three terms in the Texas House as a Texarkana Democrat before a seven-year state Senate stint that ended in 1986. Howard was 61 when he died in 1998 after a battle with cancer. The late lawmaker's son - Jay Howard - has evolved into one of the most influential lobbyists in the Lone Star State with Buddy Jones and Bill Miller as mentors at HillCo Partners throughout the past decade.

Ingram, an Amarillo native, had been the general counsel for the Texas Municipal League and the Gulf Coast Conservation Association before signing on with the Akin Gump law firm lobby team in Austin in the mid-1980s. Ingram had been one of the early pioneers of the contract lobbyist movement in Texas before his life ended tragically in a car wreck when he was just 49 years old.

Two of the state's original hired gun lobbyists - Jack Gullahorn and Rusty Kelley - had been exceptions to the unwritten ex-legislator advancement rule. Both were shoo-ins for lobby hall of fame admission from day one 12 years ago. But a majority of the charter members including Don Adams, Jerry "Nub" Donaldson, Stan Schlueter, Buddy Jones and Bill Messer had been conservative Democrats from rural areas in the House before they were lobbyists. Two of the lobby hall of fame's inaugural class - Gib Lewis and Clayton - had both been the House speaker at a time when rural Democrats controlled the Capitol's west wing. Adams served four years in both chambers from 1969 to 1977.

Mike Toomey has broken the mold, however, as the only former Republican state legislator in the lobby hall of fame. Toomey found himself dogged to some degree in the earlier stages of his lobby career by perceptions that he was too hyper-partisan to be truly effective in an industry that operates more like a fraternal brotherhood than a business. The skeptics had speculated that Toomey's heyday would end when he no longer had the Perry connection as leverage. But Perry's departure from the governor's office two years ago may have inspired Toomey to work harder than ever at trying to be the best based on recent accolades that peers and competitors have dished his way. That's the mark of a true hall of famer.

Demetrius McDaniel
Texas Lobby Hall of Fame


Sabrina Brown Jesse Ancira
Sabrina Brown Jesse Ancira
Billy Phenix Jessica Oney
Billy Phenix Jessica Oney
Crystal Ford Ky Ash
Crystal Ford Ky Ash
Chris Traylor Jordan Williford
Chris Traylor Jordan Williford



John Colyandro
John Colyancro
David Anderson
David Anderson


School & Bathroom Choice
Battles Take Centerstage

The list of lobbyists for causes and issues has a history of being overshadowed by the more glamorous categories on the biennial lobby power hierarchy. But that shouldn't be the case this time around with two of the three top entires on the often-forgotten causes crusader chart gearing for statehouse showdowns on hot-button topics that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick rates among his most pressing priorities for the 85th regular session.

Veteran GOP operative John Colyandro is making his debut in this particular category in the number one spot as the lead lobbyist for a group known as Texans for Education Opportunity. Colyando will be the Capitol quarterback for a team that will be trying to pass a school choice plan that the bipartisan opposition still refers to simply as vouchers. Colyandro serves on a TEO board that includes former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm and Texas Public Policy Foundation director Stacy Hock as its chair.

Colyandro has been the executive director in recent years for the Texas Conservative Coalition - an influential organization that he'd actually founded 30 years ago. A former direct mail specialist in Karl Rove's shop here, Colyandro's name identification skyrocketed a dozen years back when he was dragged into the scandal that toppled the political career of Texas Republican Tom DeLay. Colyandro was indicted in 2004 amid accusations of funneling corporate campaign cash to Texas House candidates as the director of a group that DeLay controlled. He pleaded guilty a dozen years later to a misdemeanor that culminated in one year of deferred adjudication that was eventually cleansed from his record. The more serious charges of which DeLay had been convicted were thrown out more than a decade after the probe into the Texas House elections of 2002 had been initiated here in Travis County.

Colyandro has been advising Governor Greg Abbott for years - and that connection could be immensely valuable if and when the time comes to try to save the vouchers bill in a House that looks like an all but insurmountable roadblock in the session's early stages. Senate passage should be a walk in the park on the road to Mount Everest on the school choice expedition that public education advocates will be doing their dead-best to derail.

The opposition in the school voucher war has a marquee list of advisors from the business establishment joining forces in the group Raise Your Hand Texas. H-E-B owner Charles Butt - a major Republican donor who's on the group's advisory panel - will make sure that the voucher foes' arsenal is loaded for the fight.

But the resistance in the upcoming school choice showdown will be relying heavily on David Anderson's institutional knowledge and experience as the Raise Your Hand Texas general counsel and lobby team captain. Anderson's expertise in this area is arguably unrivaled as someone who served as the Texas Education Agency's top lawyer for most of two decades.

The statehouse team for the LGBT group Equality Texas will be hoping to have the House as an ally well in a war that it's waging against Patrick's pet bill that would ban transgender bathrooms in Texas schools and government buildings. The gay rights group has big business interests in its corner for the brawl on the bathroom plan that could be flushed into oblivion in the west wing after sailing through the Senate over which Patrick presides.


Lobby Power Rankings
2017 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 regarded in Texas political circles as campaign operatives who've been part-time lobbyists as a way to augment their income during the off-season when the legislators they've helped elect are meeting in Austin in regular session. The hired gun list has been reserved as a result for lobbyists who are considered full time.

It's true that the lobby and campaign industries often overlap. And there may be a few consultants on the specialty list who may be making more of their living now lobbying than they are in the original profession as advisors to political candidates and committees. Kudos to those who do. But this policy change has been put in place nonetheless for the time being at least.

The former legislators who lobby appear on a separate special list with the exception of those who still are ranked as hired guns or mentioned on other lists.

An elite group of professionals who've been admitted into the Texas Lobby Hall of Fame in 2017 do not appear on the current hired guns list.

A designation as a rising lobby star is good for only one biennium. 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 12 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.
























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