The Political Prodigy Who Became a Power Lobbyist

by Savoy Staff

Marc Lampkin, Shareholder and Government Relations Department Chair, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP

It was May of 1973, and when the school day ended for fourth graders at St. Michael’s School in Providence, Rhode Island, nearly all of them rushed outside to play sports with their friends. Not Marc Lampkin. He rushed home to watch the Senate Watergate hearings.

“I was fascinated by the process,” he says, recalling the testimony of figures such as John Dean. A few years later, when Lampkin was 12, Judge John Sirica (who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars) wrote a book about the case, and Lampkin devoured it. Barely a teenager but already moving toward a life in politics, Lampkin volunteered on the campaign of John Daluz (pronounced da-LOSE), a black Republican candidate for state treasurer.

The voters did not choose Daluz, but Lampkin cherished the experience. And he has been immersed in politics and public policy ever since, working as general counsel for the House Republican Conference under then-Chairman John Boehner and holding senior roles in the Bush for President campaign from 1999-2001. Today, he’s managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Under his leadership, the office has risen to become America’s largest lobbying firm, with last year’s revenues exceeding $56 million.

It’s been an extraordinary journey for Lampkin, who was raised by a single mother in a working-class Providence neighborhood. “Her life story is foundational to who I am,” says Lampkin. “She worked for 50 years as a registered nurse, caring for the sick and dying. She taught me the value of hard work, dedication to others, doing your best, and embracing challenges.”

Lampkin has more than lived up to his mother’s high standards. He excelled in high school (La Salle Academy) and college (Holy Cross). Throughout this time, he remained passionate about politics, but his ideology didn’t begin to gel until his freshman year at Holy Cross.

“Senator Ted Kennedy gave a lecture on campus and was talking about the need for more government intervention in our lives and more government spending on a range of programs,” recalls Lampkin. “While listening, I found myself disagreeing with everything he said. I knew then that I wasn’t going to be like everyone else.”

Holy Cross shaped Lampkin’s character, providing a rigorous education and the opportunity to serve on a campus policy committee with the school’s president, dean and faculty members. “That experience taught me I could carry my voice in a group as well as anyone if I came in thoughtful and prepared. It set the course for the rest of my professional life.”

Lampkin later attended Boston College Law School, which meant he spent 19 years in Catholic education. “Being taught by Christian Brothers and Jesuits instilled in me a set of values that I think about every day, starting with subordination of self to something higher.” (Lampkin spent five years on the board of the Consortium of Catholic Academies.)

He came to Washington as an attorney with the powerhouse firm Akin Gump. One of the firm’s iconic figures was Vernon Jordan. Lampkin recalls that notwithstanding their political differences—Jordan was a Democrat and close advisor to President Clinton—“he demonstrated to me how a black man could command the room. There was no need to shrink in front of powerful people. He was the center of the universe in every room he entered. I’ve tried to walk in his footsteps ever since.”

Indeed, Lampkin became a foot soldier in the Republican ranks for many years. While on the staff of future House Speaker Boehner, he worked on issues such as education, labor and oversight. And in the immediate aftermath of the deadlocked 2000 presidential election, he was in the first crew of staffers to arrive in Florida and advocate on behalf of George W. Bush.

On Capitol Hill, in the Bush campaign and as a lobbyist, Lampkin has stood out, for having a nuanced understanding of both public policy and the politics of different issues. “Marc combines policy smarts with strong leadership and a great personality. This helps him anticipate where the world is going and the relationships that are needed to shape the future,” says Ken Mehlman, who was manager of President’s Bush’s reelection campaign and serves today as Global Head of Public Affairs at KKR, one of the world’s leading investment firms.

Lampkin’s experience and strategic insights make him a trusted advisor to his clients, helping them navigate the byzantine ways of Washington. He also brings a tenacity to his work that stands out even in the capital’s workaholic culture. In 2006, while touring the Colosseum in Rome, he peeled off to lead a conference call focused on ensuring his clients would benefit from the Pension Protection Act.

Lampkin has admirers in high places, including the former speaker of the House. “Marc is one-of-a-kind,” says Boehner. “He’s the exact opposite of flashy. He’s earnest, gregarious, and one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet. People just gravitate to him. Everywhere Marc has gone in his career, a strong team has emerged, with him at the center of it.”

Similarly, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, says that while Lampkin “has a deep knowledge of how policy gets made from his experience on Capitol Hill and with lobbying, his greatest asset is a rare intuitive sense of how an issue is going to play out long before others see it. He’s also an incredible judge of character with a finely honed BS detector and knows who can get things done.”

Lampkin and his wife, Emily, have been married for 20 years and have three sons —Marc (18), Andrew (16) and James (14). Each one has helped build and stock libraries at inner-city Catholic schools in Washington. “They’ve drawn inspiration from my mother, just as I did,” says Lampkin. “I also had the good fortune to be educated by a devoted set of teachers. Family and faith has guided me as a father and a husband—and as an advocate for my clients.”


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