Louise Linton readies her next act, focused on animal welfare
© Courtesy of Louise Linton

Louise Linton says she’s ready to write her next act, and it includes a real-life role as an animal welfare activist on Capitol Hill.

“It was a bit bumpy the first couple of years, not knowing how to transition into this new, strange world, having come from Los Angeles and entertainment,” says the Scottish-born actress and producer, who’s married to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGAO report details challenges of implementing Trump tax law Financial trade tax gains traction with 2020 Democrats Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles MORE. “But now I feel like I’ve really found my reason and my purpose in being here.”

That purpose, she says between sips of Pellegrino at a cozy table by the window at the St. Regis bar in downtown D.C. on a crisp January afternoon, is no longer just doling out dollars for animal-driven projects.

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Linton, 39, says she wants to be a fixture of sorts on the Hill, specifically meeting with lawmakers about animal rights issues. Just last month, she had her first face-to-face with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-Maine) as a board member of the White Coat Waste Project, co-hosting a briefing aimed at pushing for the Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments and Research Act. The bill would require federal research facilities to help retire or find adoptive homes for former lab testing animals.

Last year, Linton created an eponymous charitable fund for her animal protection efforts.

“I’ve donated a lot of money over my life. But I started to feel, I guess, a sense of futility because no matter how many times you fundraise, it only sort of puts a cork in the bottom of the boat, which inevitably is not going to be a long-term solution,” the longtime animal rights activist, who has five dogs in D.C. and two living back in the Golden State, says with a sigh.

Her goal for this year, Linton says, is lobbying for increased funding to help with greater enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, signed in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson to provide protections for animals. She also notes a dizzying number of legislative efforts in California that she wants to work on, including mandating microchipping in shelter pets and a bill that would encourage plant-based farming, among several others. 

Now that her latest movie is in the can — she holds a quadruple-hyphenate title as the producer, director, writer and star of the Los Angeles-shot “Me, You, Madness,” which has been described as a “serial killer comedy,” Linton says she expects to spend more than half of her time in the nation’s capital.

After touching down in Washington in 2017 after Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film financier, was sworn in as part of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE’s Cabinet, Linton quickly made headlines — but not good ones.

Linton took aim at an Instagram user who had mocked her and called her “deplorable” after the actress shared a photo of herself alongside Mnuchin leaving a government plane clad in designer brands. In the post, Linton included hashtags for the various fashion labels she was sporting.

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She went on an apology tour of sorts, but not before igniting controversy once again two months later when she was mocked for a photograph of her posing in black leather gloves while holding up new sheets of money with Mnuchin at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Linton, in pearl earrings and a white sweater, says she regrets the “rookie mistakes” she made as a newcomer to the District. Asked if she thinks she got a fair shake, she clinks her fire-engine red nails against her glass and stares out the window before she responds.

“I think I got a slap on the wrist for doing a stupid social media post, and I deserved it.”

She then grins. “At some point I’d like write a sort of mildly comedic how-to for the future Cabinet spouses, because you get thrown into this world — especially if you’re not from Washington — and you just don’t know all the rules.”

She denies that jetting back to the West Coast was an escape from the political and personal spotlight that was reaching blazing hot temperatures for her in D.C.

“At that time I hadn’t found my raison d’etre: Why am I here in Washington? How can I do something meaningful here? I felt like I was just sort of an accessory, a Cabinet wife. I didn’t have a mission or purpose.”

She concedes that while her husband’s position has opened countless doors for her work with animals, it’s also closed some and limited her in other ways.

“It’s a very fine line and I have found at times that being his wife has actually made me feel quite cautious and at times a little tempered in what I [say],” she tells ITK.

Last week, she made headlines once again when she posted a message of support for teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Linton’s Instagram post, which was later deleted, came after her husband had dismissed Thunberg’s ideas about climate change, suggesting after “she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”

In her chat with ITK before the Thunberg hubbub, Linton exclaimed, “I’m a fiery person and I like to state my views openly and loudly. But there’s rules of conduct within the political sphere and you can’t be as perhaps pronounced and activist as you would like to be.”

She praised outspoken activists such as “Grace and Frankie” star Jane Fonda — who led weekly climate protests outside the Capitol.

“I love how Jane Fonda is getting arrested for the environment. Power to her. But I’ve got to play by the rules.”

She calls herself “nonpolitical,” saying more than once, “I’m not a Democrat, nor am I Republican.”

“I care for people. I care for animals. I don’t care for the frenzy of politics or for sometimes the cruelty of it.”

But isn’t everything political these days?

“Partly due to how caustic things are politically at the moment, it’s even more of a reason to want to separate myself because I see things in every direction that I do or don’t agree with. But I just want to stay out of it and really focus my energies on animal welfare rather than get involved in anything that’s going on politically,” Linton says.

Linton, who’s a naturalized U.S. citizen, has plans to meet with multiple Republican lawmakers in the coming weeks, and practically pleads for Democrats — even in hyper-politically polarized times — to hear her out.  

“When people give me an opportunity to show that I’m not political and I do genuinely care about the issue, they’re willing to sit down,” she says.

“I don’t pose a threat. I’m not the enemy. If you’re a congressperson or a senator, I’d love to talk to you or support you if you’ve got stuff going on in the animal welfare space … Hopefully they’ll be able to let me into the conversation.”

She says she realizes her husband’s position — and with it her ties to Washington — won’t last forever. She’ll likely head back to California after the Trump era, but maybe, she says she’ll find a way to merge the two worlds she currently inhabits.

She nixes the idea of a memoir about her time in Washington, but her eyes light up a bit at the thought of writing a TV show

“I think I definitely get great ideas from being here … it’s a strange and exciting world.”

Perhaps she’ll pen some sort of comedy about her experiences, or a fish-out-of-water tale.

“If you’re an outsider you don’t know all the ins and outs and just what it’s like, I suppose.”