High-powered lobbyist back in Governor’s Office

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Just three days after his lobbying registrations expired, Luis Saenz is Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff.

It’s not Saenz’s first run through the revolving door in Austin.

The former campaign manager and senior adviser to Gov. Rick Perry joined McGuireWoods Consulting in 2012. He served as Abbott’s appointments director in 2015 before returning to the firm in spring 2016, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Over the years, Saenz carried a diversified portfolio of 40 private and public clients spanning finance, healthcare, local government, technology, and energy. Several firms had ongoing contracts and business with the state.

Documents filed with the state show Saenz was registered to lobby for Shikun & Binui Concessions USA Inc., an Israel-based firm that won a billion-dollar contract to build toll lanes along Texas 288 in Harris County.

He represented Elliott Management Co., a New York hedge fund involved in the sale of Energy Future Holdings, a bankrupt Texas utility also represented by Saenz.

Some clients of Saenz opposed Abbott’s positions. The lobbyist advocated for casino interests (the governor is anti-gambling) and the city of Austin, which fought bills to punish sanctuary cities and curb property taxes (the former passed; the latter failed in the Legislature).

For his efforts, Saenz earned between $425,000 and $1.1 million annually, according to his lobbying reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. As chief of staff, he will make considerably less, though the governor’s office did not specify his compensation.

Daniel Hodge, Abbott’s outgoing chief of staff, had the top staff salary in the Governor’s Office at $207,600 last April.

State ethics policies prohibit state agency heads from lobbying former colleagues for two years, but nothing restricts the hiring of lobbyists for public posts.

Saenz was not available for comment.

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Kenric Ward is a veteran journalist whose work has appeared at Fox News, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, TownHall, Roll Call, and Human Events. An editor and reporter at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Ward was Virginia bureau chief for Watchdog.org before relocating to Texas. He earned a bachelor's degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.