By Kevin Bogardus - 08/14/11 09:30 AM EDT
The latest entrant in the 2012 presidential race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), will be able to turn to several on K Street as he vies for the White House.
A number of former aides to Texan lawmakers and Lone Star State natives who are now prominent lobbyists in Washington plan to back Perry. Several of these GOP lobbyists have stayed on the sidelines of the Republican presidential primary as they waited for the Texas governor’s highly-anticipated late entry into the race for the White House.
“I am excited to do so and I am delighted that's he's coming into the race. I think it's a real game-changer,” Van Dongen said. “Without a disservice to any of the other candidates, the single most important qualifying factor is who stands the best chance of beating Barack Obama. In my considered judgment, that's Rick Perry.”
Van Dongen, a fundraiser for both of President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, could take on a similar role for Perry. The business group executive said he could he help with fundraising as well as build coalitions in the business community in support of the Texas governor.
The K Street support for Perry could help boost the Texas governor’s fundraising chops among the lobbyists’ clients. In addition, they can help with outreach to Republican members of Congress to secure endorsements for the candidate.
Further, Texas’s roots run deep on K Street with several native Texans and numerous ex-aides from the state’s large congressional delegation scattered throughout Washington’s lobbying corps. That could lead to a huge outpouring of support for their home state governor.
“All politics is local,” said one Texan lobbyist.
Like Van Dongen, other lobbyists will lend their support to Perry’s presidential campaign.
Brian Conklin, a lobbyist for USAA, a financial service company that serves military families, will likely be a fundraiser for Perry. Conklin was a senior aide to President George W. Bush during his time in the White House.
Dennis Stephens, a government affairs counselor for K&L Gates, is trying to gather up as many supporters as possible in the lobbying community for Perry. A native Texan, Stephens is a former senior aide for ex-House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and also worked for Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).
Another native Texan, David Lynch, a lobbyist for Energy Future Holdings — formerly TXU Electric Delivery — will also lend his support to Perry. Fellow Texan Scott Styles, a senior vice president of federal affairs at America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurance companies' trade group, will be a Perry supporter as well.
Several on K Street are waiting for the call from Perry’s campaign.
“They haven't reached out to me yet but I'm happy to help out in any way I can,” said Roy Coffee. Head of lobby firm Coffee & Associates, Coffee, once an aide to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, has known Perry since he ran for reelection as Texas Agriculture Commissioner in 1994. Coffee said he will get behind Perry’s presidential campaign.
Other lobbyists are eager to support Perry.
“I am eager to play any role in his campaign. Obviously, fundraising will be important,” said Chris Giblin, a former chief of staff to Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) who is now a senior vice president of Ogilvy Government Relations.
Glenn LeMunyon, president of the LeMunyon Group, said it makes sense for him to support Perry. He is a former aide to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and has several clients based in Texas.
But the lobbyist said Perry has a strong economic argument to make against President Obama.
“Look at what he has done,” LeMunyon said. “When I talk to my friends down there, they say ‘Glenn, we don't know what you're talking about. There hasn't been a recession down here.’ … The place is open for business. If he can take that nationwide, that is what we need right now.”
Jeff MacKinnon, a former legislative director for Barton, will support Perry as well. MacKinnon is a lobbyist at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli and Berzok.
MacKinnon said Perry has the best shot of uniting both wings of the Republican Party — social and fiscal conservatives — due to his record of supporting business in Texas as well as having evangelical credentials.
“I think that's a powerful combination,” MacKinnon said. “He's the best one who can bring everyone together.”