The Most Powerful Lobbyist in Trump’s Washington


When Brian Ballard signed the lease last year for an office on the second floor of the Homer Building, a downtown Washington edifice that’s home to a number of lobbying firms, he promised himself he would stay in the space for five years. He lasted one. In February, his firm, Ballard Partners, moved into a bigger office on the fourth floor to accommodate the new lobbyists Ballard has hired since the election of one of his former clients, President Donald Trump.

At the firm’s first staff meeting in the new offices, Ballard and five of his Washington lobbyists sat in new leather chairs around a small conference table, with Ballard at the head. Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman from Florida whom Ballard hired last year, phoned in from Paris with an update on the firm’s work for the Turkish government. Jamie Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, called from Brussels and updated Ballard on a meeting he’d had with Moise Katumbi, an exiled opposition leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who’s a client.

“You’ll be happy to hear that we signed the Maldives today,” Syl Lukis, another Ballard lobbyist, told Rubin.

“Let’s fire away quickly on Kosovo and Turkey,” Ballard said. (The government of Kosovo is another Ballard client.)

Other Ballard lobbyists gave updates on their meetings with Trump administration officials and other work on behalf of the dozens of clients they represent in Washington, including Amazon, Dish Network, Uber, Pernod Ricard (the makers of Jameson whiskey and Absolut vodka) and Trulieve (a Florida-based medical marijuana company). Rebecca Benn, a former congressional staffer Ballard hired last year, updated Ballard and another lobbyist, Susie Wiles, on a meeting she’d set up for a client. “They were very, very happy — thank you, Susie — for the meeting at the White House last week,” Benn said. “It went very, very well.”

Ballard is a veteran Florida lobbyist who’s been in Washington for barely a year — the blink of an eye in an industry in which many of the top practitioners have spent decades inside the Beltway. But Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town. He’s parlayed that relationship into a booming business helping clients get their way with the Trump administration — and his clients and even some of his rivals say his firm has a better grasp of what’s going on in the West Wing than almost anyone else on K Street. Ballard was one of the top fundraisers in the country for Trump’s campaign and continues to raise millions for his reelection campaign. Wiles, one of his top lieutenants, ran Trump’s campaign in Florida and delivered the nation’s biggest swing state to the president. Continued at