A quick rundown of the high-level lobbying executives whom Spencer Stuart’s Leslie Hortum has helped get hired should leave no doubt about her lasting influence in Washington. She is responsible for placing Dave McCurdy with the American Gas Association, former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with the American Council of Life Insurers, Dawn Sweeney with the National Restaurant Association, and Susan Neely with the American Beverage Association. “I’m pretty proud of that one,” Hortum said of Neely, who organized the beverage industry’s campaign against a soda tax and has frequently been named among the top political executives in the city.
Hortum had already spent 20 years in the trade-association world before becoming a specialist in helping companies and nonprofit groups find people to lead them. She was the first female senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she was entrusted with the task of building (and in some cases rebuilding) relationships with local chambers. She also spent 13 years at the American Trucking Association, where she forged her long-standing friendship with U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue, who headed the trucking association when Hortum was there. Hortum got used to being in a male-dominated arena at the trucking association, although she said that the cultural differences occasionally peeked through. At one point, Hortum suggested serving a light lunch at the association’s annual convention, “instead of meat and potatoes and wine,” so that the attendees would stay awake. Her idea was summarily rejected.
Hortum, 54, said that her job now is to find the right leader for organizations that are in transition and may be in turmoil. The task requires an “incredibly honest” conversation among all the parties about what the leadership job entails. Longtime relationships matter, because Hortum needs people to “tell me the truth” about the candidates. “The older you get the better you get, because of the relationships you have,” she said. “It’s a small town. You know a lot.”
By Fawn Johnson
Karen Ignagni notched a major achievement in 2010 when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. And she is again triumphant now that the Supreme Court has upheld its critical individual mandate. Ignagni, 58, runs the major health insurance trade association called America’s Health Insurance Plans, where she has scored numerous other victories on behalf of the much-maligned industry.
Ignagni was at the table from the outset of President Obama’s health care effort. Chastened by the Clinton administration’s earlier failures, the White House knew it needed the insurance industry in its corner. In exchange for the tough new regulation that they had fought in the past, Ignagni helped to ensure that her members got some big benefits—millions of new customers thanks to the individual mandate and an estimated $1 trillion in revenue through 2020, according to Bloomberg Government. “We spent a great deal of time preparing,” she recalls. “We had very specific proposals.”
Ignagni has been involved with the health insurance industry since 1993, having worked on Capitol Hill for former Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., and for the Health and Human Services Department. She discounts her personal touch in accomplishing AHIP’s goals, crediting the cooperation of her members and a data-driven approach to conversing with policy makers. But those who have worked with her say she’s a skilled communicator who engenders the trust needed to close big deals. “I think she’s someone who operates in very good faith,” says Sheridan Group consultant Dan Smith, who worked with Ignagni when he was president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “She’s incredibly smart, and just a terrific advocate for her organization. And she’s tenacious.”
By Margot Sanger-Katz
With a long history as an environmental steward, Lisa Jackson was more than prepared to combat pollution and climate change when she was confirmed to head the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009. But since she took office, she has also found herself at the center of a different, more divisive, battle.
Jackson, the first African-American EPA administrator and the fourth woman to hold the position, is directly in the cross fire between energy and environmental interests, both inside and outside Washington. At a time of economic uncertainty, EPA, symbolized by its clean-air rules, has become to critics the symbol of “government overreach” and “job-killing” regulations. Republicans have denounced Jackson on the campaign trail and dragged her before numerous congressional committees. The GOP-controlled House has passed bill after bill to repeal or delay EPA regulations. Some Republican candidates have called for eliminating her position—and her agency—altogether. Faced with such blowback, Jackson, 50, has spent much of her time defending her agency’s work and arguing that a cleaner environment and a healthy economy are not antithetical.
Far from backing down, she has pressed ahead, issuing and implementing rules to control mercury emissions and other toxic air pollution from power plants, and setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks to reduce vehicle emissions and cut U.S. dependence on oil imports. And now that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has upheld EPA’s controversial greenhouse-gas emissions regulations, they join a group of pending rules that Jackson will be working to enforce in the face of congressional gridlock.
Along with the uphill battle of restoring the public’s trust in the agency’s work, Jackson has prioritized outreach to children, the elderly, and low-income communities—all groups that are especially susceptible to the health threats from pollution and climate change.
By Olga Belogolova