Capitol Counsel grabs House Rules aide

K Street powerhouse Capitol Counsel has a new House Republican guru, Towner French, who recently left Capitol Hill after nearly 15 years.

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He most recently served as the chief of staff for the House Rules Committee under Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who is also the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

French starts as a principal at the firm on Monday.

“One of my main focuses is going to be on healthcare, but to be frank – the Rules Committee is a strange place,” he told The Hill. “Any bill that goes on the floor goes through the Rules Committee. As a result, the folks up here never have a specific area of interest.”

“The fun thing about [being on] the committee, for me, is that it makes you very dangerous at cocktail parties because you know 60 percent to 70 percent of every issue that's out there,” French added. “The process of the House is something that interests me greatly. I hope to be able to translate that in a little bit downtown.”

French also spent nine years working for former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) – moving from various legislative positions to chief of staff – and has also served on the House Homeland Security Committee under Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).

“Towner French is highly regarded by a number of my former colleagues in the House of Representatives as a person who is smart, works hard, and pays attention to detail and getting the job done right,” former Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), a partner at Capitol Counsel, said in a statement.

The new addition fills a void left by Kyle Nevins, a former senior aide to ex-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who left at the beginning of the year to start his own firm with other former House and Senate leadership staffers called Harbinger Strategies.

Former colleagues say that French has an understanding of the process of legislating, including the politics and policy components that go along with it.

He knows “what makes a member tick, what will bring them to 'no' from 'yes' on a bill,” said Brian MacDonald, chief of staff to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “He's not looking for the fight, he's looking for progress.”

Cesar Gonzalez, the chief of staff for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), credited French with being willing to help him get started when he first got hired as a policy aide in Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s office and again when he had to move into a more political role of chief of staff for the former lawmaker’s younger brother.

“He knew his way around,” Gonzalez said of French. “The most important part was he was willing to teach me when other people may have used you as a stepping stone.”

Only a handful of senior staffers are allowed on the House floor at any given time, and, as a Rules Committee staffer, French served as a form of counsel to aides and members alike while they worked on the floor.

“That's where a lot of business gets done and a lot of people come to Towner down there,” MacDonald told The Hill. “He's always got his antenna up about what's going on in not only the House but also the Senate – so he's always a very good source of advice.”

MacDonald also has confidence that French will do just fine in his life in the private sector.

“Towner is about the team or coalition mission at hand, not about himself at all. And this trait, combined with his strong professional competence, make him welcome to partner with,” he said. “He's the kind of neighbor you'd want and be glad to have over for a BBQ.”

Capitol Counsel has long been a rising force on K Street. Now situated with a solid bipartisan staff that works the House and Senate, the mid-size firm continually posts double-digit revenue growth each quarter.

The firm brought in $18 million in lobbying fees in 2014, boasting clients such as, Wal-Mart, the Edison Electric Institute, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Westfield, JP Morgan Chase and Comcast, among many other blue-chip companies and trade groups.