Lobbying from the center

Courtesy Dao Nguyen

Lobbyists such as Dao Nguyen with connections to moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill are uniquely positioned with President Biden in the White House and razor-thin margins in the House and Senate.

Nguyen, former senior policy adviser for Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), left Capitol Hill this month to lobby for the firm Cornerstone Government Affairs, where she was named a principal.

“With tight margins in both the House and Senate, we know that governing from the center is going to be critical and we can expect to see moderate Democrats continue to play an influential role in crafting legislation and deciding what moves and doesn’t move in this Congress,” she said in a recent interview with The Hill.

Nguyen said that this Congress will be a “major opportunity” for two centrist Democratic caucuses in the House, the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dogs, which Murphy co-chairs, to move forward with their agenda. Nguyen, a Southern California native, previously served as senior policy adviser to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), working for him from 2012 to 2017. She then spent four years with Murphy and, along with her role in the congresswoman’s office, she was executive director of the Future Forum Caucus from January 2019 to December 2020.

That caucus was founded in 2015 by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) to amplify the voices of young Americans including millennials and Gen Z. It focuses on issues that are important to this demographic, including gun violence prevention, climate change and college affordability.

“As executive director, it was my responsibility to identify common policy interests be- tween the members and create opportunities for them to advocate on behalf of the young constituents,” Nguyen said. “I think most folks might appreciate the fact that was certainly an exciting challenge given the fact that Future Forum is an extremely diverse group of members with vastly different viewpoints on the ideological spectrum.”

Under Nguyen’s leadership, the forum brought in former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and business leaders such as Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Hyman to brief members.

“Over time, I developed a passion for fostering the kind of collaboration between the public and private sector and lobbying just seemed like a natural next step for me,” she said. “Someday soon I hope that I’ll get to work with more of these next-generation innovators who are leading values-based companies and are looking for more opportunities to partner with the government.”

Choosing Cornerstone as where to go for her next step was a “gut instinct,” Nguyen said.

“Similar to my time on the Hill, the issues I’m going to be working on, I expect, will run the gamut,” she said, specifically naming health care, education, tech, taxes, trade, en- ergy and the environment, but emphasizing that her focus will be dependent on client needs and what issues lobbyists anticipate Congress and the new administration will tackle.

“I’ve always prided myself on being a jack of all trades and luckily I got great practice because the Hill conditions you to be that way. So, I’m just really looking forward to juggling a variety of issues and adding value where I can, especially as it relates to engagement with House Democrats,” she said.

Nguyen’s decision to join the private sector was largely inspired by her role as executive director of the Future Forum, but she says the decision to leave Capitol Hill after working there since 2013 was bittersweet.

“I’ve worked on Capitol Hill for nearly a decade, and it’s a tremendous privilege to serve in these sacred halls and to have worked with incredible public servants like Congressman Adam Schiff and Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy,” she said.

The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen said that her pride and gratitude over working in Congress comes from “having received the chance to work on legislation that’s made a meaningful difference to the lives of families just like mine. That experience has meant so much to me.”

Biden, the oldest sitting president in history, is under pressure to engage with and energize young Democrats, and Nguyen stressed how vital that demographic will be for his agenda.

“Young Democratic voices are incredibly important right now, and continuing to foster a new generation of public service leaders is only going to work to the benefit of achieving real progress in the country,” she said.

She added that the private sector also has to engage with the youth of the Democratic Party.

“There is definitely going to be an incentive for industries to keep thinking critically about how they can engage with this growing demographic of Americans, just like it is important for government leaders to do the same,” Nguyen said.

—Updated at 11:41 a.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Eric Swalwell Ernest Moniz K Street Lobbying lobbyist Stephanie Murphy

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