Bill and Melinda Gates have launched the Gates Policy Initiative to lobby for issues the billionaire couple has been working on through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Hill first reported.
The initiative will be focused on global health, global development, U.S. education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically, and efforts to move people from poverty to employment.
Rob Nabors, ex-White House director of legislative affairs under former President Obama, is the executive director of the 501(c)(4) initiative. He currently serves as a director at the Gates Foundation.
“Bill and Melinda have been interested in improving the outcome of the poorest in society both here in the United States and abroad for a very long time,” Nabors told The Hill. “I think recently Bill and Melinda have asked the question, ‘Is there more that we can be doing, especially here in the United States?' ”
Nabors said the group plans to work in a bipartisan way and avoid political giving.
“Bill and Melinda have a long history of engaging the executive branch, the legislative branch, in a bipartisan way, I don’t see that changing,” Nabors said. “In terms of political giving or statements in support of political candidates, Bill and Melinda have been very clear that we will not be doing that type of activity through the (c)(4). We are focused almost exclusively on legislative outcomes and the lobbying effort.”
Bill and Melinda Gates officially launched the initiative, which is fully independent of their foundation, on Thursday.
“We do not see the (c)(4) as an avenue for politics, we see the (c)(4) as a potential to accelerate outcomes. It is too important to us that the people that need the help, get the help, for this to get sort of wrapped up into broader political types of issues,” Nabors said.
But much of what they’ve learned running their foundation will help them through the process of establishing a lobbying shop.
“Probably the most important point for us is similar to the way Bill and Melinda have approached their philanthropic giving and other things that they do. They are interested in learning what works and what doesn’t work,” Nabors said.
He said that if they are not successful in a couple of years, they will “shutter the shop and figure out what else could potentially be done.”
“I think that experimental type of approach, that innovative type of approach, is both relatively unique in this space and embedded into the DNA that Bill and Melinda bring with them,” he said.
Nabors said that when he worked in the Obama White House, his job was often described as the White House chief lobbyist.
“I’m excited to get back into the mix of talking to people specifically about the work that they are doing every day, trying to put bills together that will make people’s lives better,” he said.
He added that Bill and Melinda Gates also bring a unique lens to a lobbying shop.
“They are very data-focused so a number of the types of issues that we will be exploring and the solutions that we are exploring are based on data that we collected from programs that we funded,” he added.
Additionally, the fact that they are personally invested in the shop will add a different element.
“I’m going up to the Hill with knowledge of things that Bill and Melinda felt strong enough that they used their own money to do it. Not a lot of people are in that position and I think that’s empowering,” Nabors said.
Updated at 3:24 p.m.