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Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012

* I’ll announce yesterday’s winners a little later today. We’re doing nominations in two parts today because we’re simply running out of time…

* Best Contract Lobbyist

* Best In-House Lobbyist

Keep in mind that an unexplained vote will not count. Also, please do your very best to nominate in both categories. Thanks much.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Sine Die - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:00 am:

    Contract Lobbyist:
    My vote goes to Jim Fletcher. Fletch has proven over the years that he’s one of the most insightful and best strategists under the Dome. His varied client list keeps he and his team invloved in lots of “hot button’ issues and he is an all star!

    Rob Karr from IRMA leads my list of in house lobbyists. Rob is the most detail oriented lobbyist at the state house. He knows the process better than anyone and best of all, his professional demeanor makes everyone enjoy working with him.

  2. - walkinfool - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:14 am:

    Best inside: Nick Yelverton

    Nick has the three atributes most valuable, regardless of your position — he tells the truth, he can outline evidence and arguments both for and against, and he will provide expert analysis and information quickly.

    Best contract: Dave Sullivan

    Dave is just so well-connected, knowledgable, and respectful of everyone in Springfield, that it’s a pleasure to meet with him on any issue. His overall integrity is exemplary.

  3. - 1776 - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:15 am:

    Rob Karr with IRMA. He is quiet and unassuming for someone representing a major entity with significant influence. He treats everyone the same whether you’re the Governor, a lawmaker, a secretary or janitor. He’s extremely professional and classy and rarely if ever loses. He was mentored by Dave Vite who is one of the best.

  4. - SportShoz - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    I’m nominating ComEd for both. Contract - because they hire up everyone, and in-house because of that Crain’s story this week were in was disclosed that ComEd spent over $16.2 Million on lobbying for, passing and overriding the Governor’s veto of SB1652 last year. This year they were able to get a House committee to convene in Chicago in July to pass their anti-ICC rate cut resolution and then get it passed during the one-day August special Session. During Veto Session their Senate Resolution was one of the few things that got done - and they did a great job of packing the committee room.

    For all that money on lobbying and lobbyists its only appropriate they win this too.

  5. - Oldtimer - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:32 am:

    In-house- Rob Karr- very well respected and a straight shooter.

    Contract- Liz Brown- works hard and is very effective around the rail

  6. - Mick - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:32 am:

    Ed Peck out hustles every lobbyist at the rail. If you take a look at his client/issues list you can see why. He represents major players and that list of blue chip clients continues to grow. He is honest, hard working and fair. He is often the leader who builds coalitions and finds consensus in dealing with difficult issues. He has fostered a family of lobbyists with a wife, brother and nephew all working the rail. It is a testament to his character and the reputation he has built.

    Tanya Triche from IRMA is an amazing advocate. Equally at home lobbying the Legislature or the Chicago City Council she has built a strong reputation among the who’s who of Illinois politics. She is always on the run juggling dozens of issues and handling the work load with grace. Even in her most hectic moment she always finds time for a smile and a kind word. She is an up and coming force in Illinois politics.

  7. - Commonsense in Illinois - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:40 am:

    I have to agree with those mentioning Rob Karr of IRMA. Rob is a consummate professional and well versed in virtually every issue having the slightest impact on both his members and the state’s business community. Even those who oppose Rob’s positions will agree that he is always willing to try and reach a compromise on differing opinions - a virtue that is seemingly lacking in the statehouse these days. As someone who has worked with Rob since his very first days in Springfield, retailers in Illinois are in very good and widely respected hands.

  8. - Darko - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:43 am:

    In House - Mark Denzler, great guy to work with has an unbelievable understanding of issues and is able to overcome some pretty formidable opposition on issues to get things done.

    Contract - David Dring, when it comes to being on top of issues David is number 1. His political acumen is only outshined by his oversized personality and attire. One of David’s strongest points is his ability to fill holes in the PR strategy of his clients.

  9. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    Why hasn’t the contract lobbyist horseshoe been renamed for Mike McClain yet? Since it hasn’t been, Mike has to get this year’s. Best lobbyist around, has his pulse on literally everything going on in the building, and is one of the most generous people you will ever meet. He mentors staff and young lobbyists alike, will tell you the pros and cons of his issues, has a legislative skill that is nearly unmatched in the state house and his political skills are just as prodigious. It’s well past time to honor him permanently.

    1A is a tie between Cullen, Thomson, Filan, Kasper, Fletch and Courtney.

    In house has got to be, I mean it has to be, Bob Barry. Eileen Mitchell deservedly received tons of credit for AT&T’s success but lost in the shuffle was Bob. He’s not flashy, he just works harder than anyone else. And I mean anyone.

  10. - Senate - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    I nominate 2 former Senators :
    AJ Wilhelmi had a great first year with the IHA at a very difficult time. He guided them through a huge policy discussion like a veteran.
    Dave Sullivan continues to show why he is so well liked & respected on both sides of the aisle. He always represents his clients well and treats staff very well.

  11. - Crime Fighter - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:59 am:

    SportShoz - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    I’m nominating ComEd for both.

    I’m with SportShoz for the reasons stated. ComEd has upheld its notorious reputation for lobbying prowess and influence. It even gets deferential resolutions passed in the GA when it doesn’t get every single thing it wants from an ICC docket.

  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:04 pm:

    ===Why hasn’t the contract lobbyist horseshoe been renamed for Mike McClain yet? ===

    The Best Insider Award is already named after him. Two would be a bit much.

  13. - Yossarian Lives - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:16 pm:

    Is there going to be a separate category for “do-gooder” lobbyists as there was last year?

  14. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:19 pm:


  15. - Crime Fighter - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:20 pm:

    =”The Best Insider Award is already named after him. Two would be a bit much.”=

    Don’t tell that to Johnny Football!

  16. - L.S. - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:22 pm:

    Best inside, Mark Denzler. He’s a true pro. Works both sides very effectivly and respects staff’s role in the process.

    Best contract, Pete Baroni. He’s a little nuts but he knows the law inside and out and works his butt off for his clients.

  17. - Bill - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 12:51 pm:

    Best In-House: Alison Burnett for ISMS is the best In-house. She focuses on rank-and-file legislators, so she flies under the radar, yet if you want to pass something through the House with Republican votes, she better be on board. In addition to being hard-working and dedicated to her job, she is respected by everyone who works with her, and she is a very passionate advocate for her issues.

    Contract Lobbyist: Michael Cassidy. He has not been around as long as others nominated, but look at the impressive client list he has amassed in that time. He is the most focused, hard-working, driven lobbyist you will find in Illinois.

  18. - dave - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:08 pm:

    Best in-house: AJ Wilhelmi: He got off to a late start last session, getting hired in the middle of session, but he hit the ground running in arguably the most difficult year that hospitals have faced in a LONG time. And, frankly, IHA had an extremely successful legislative session. They were successful in stopping many of the worst Medicaid cuts, and they basically got everything they wanted in their charity care/property tax legislation as well. You couldn’t really ask for a better start for an in-house lobbyist.

    Contract: I’d have to go with Mike Thompson (along with his partner - Michael Weir). They’re everywhere — they basically get whatever clients that they want, because they’re that good, and they have pretty decent principals on who they take. But they also don’t just skate on reputation — they work hard. They work their inside relationships with the best of them, but they also do the grunt work at the rail that it takes to move bills.

  19. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:10 pm:

    ==The Best Insider Award is already named after him. Two would be a bit much.==

    Then I’m amending my vote to Tom Cullen. He is a man always willing to help you out and if you’re his opponent on something, he’s never going to go behind your back. He’ll stick the knife in while smiling, but he will be completely and brutally honest with you while doing so, and that’s a trait that is critical to his respectability. He’s sharp as a tack, a master strategist, and a treat to work with - when he’s with you.

  20. - fanofbob - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    Best in house has to go to Bob Barry. Bob knows more about members then just about anybody in the building. He is a solid guy with a great knowledge of the business.

    The best contract lobbyist goes to Tom Cullen. He has been around for decades, is honest and gets the job done for a variety of clients. He also knows politics which really helps pass bills.

  21. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:34 pm:

    Best Contract Lobbyist- Tie-Liz Brown and John McCabe both very good nose counters and tops at thinking of clever ways to peddle dopey ideas
    Best In Side Lobbo - Gotta go with Joyce Nardulli at the Bankers. Her clients trashed the economy, stalled any foreclosure reforms and when faced with certain defeat did the perfect twirl to become a supporter and watch a modest reform pass like an agreed bill.
    Does not get any better

  22. - Puddles - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:51 pm:

    Best contractual: Eddie Peck. I’ve worked with Ed on a number of big issues and as a member of staff, he provides valuable insight and gets back to you right away. I know that sounds simple, but working on the minority staff, you see lobbyists ignore our office. A testament to Ed that he works every angle and makes sure he does the job right. It is greatly appreciated.

    Best in House: It’s hard to choose between Rob Karr and Mark Denzler. Both are professional, diligent, and honestly, they just outwork people. It’s pleasure to work with both of them. The IMA and IRMA got it right with these two.

  23. - Prairie Hawk - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 1:54 pm:

    Best Contract- Jim Reimer. Jim is always working for his clients’ and has proven very valuable in representing their interests. This shows and is the reason that his firm has built a nice list of clients. He has friends on both sides of the aisle and will stick with them until the end.

    Best In-House- Nick Yelverton. I second the earlier vote for Nick. He does a great job advocating for the IFT and teachers throughout the state. They have faced some challenges recently and Nick has done a great job of promoting their cause.

  24. - Tonto - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 2:12 pm:

    Mark Denzler and Ed Peck. smart companies make sure they are represented by both.

  25. - Knome Sane - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 2:17 pm:

    Best insider: Bob Barry, AT&T. The man is not capable of uttering an unkind word about anyone, and in our business, that says a lot. He has been around the rail, mostly under the radar, for the past 28 years. He knows his stuff and his word is bond.

    Best contract lobbyist: while there are many from which to choose, I would like to nominate Jay Keller. Once known as one of the “Republican guys” during Lee Daniels/Pate Philip era, Jay is able to navigate seamlessly between the members in either caucus, in both chambers. No longer seen as a “Republican guy” or a “Democrat guy”, Jay is seen as someone who tirelessly works for his clients. Always quick with a smile or a “hey, how are you? Everything OK?”, he “works” the roll-calls and runs down every member to secure a vote (or to find out which way the legislator is voting). No legislator is too small or too inconsequential. He understands the adage: “knowledge” is “power”. And he trusts his instincts. These are not unique qualities in Springfield, but they are rare.

  26. - siriusly - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 2:33 pm:

    Contract: Tom Cullen, no BS, well okay a little BS - but still he makes you feel like he’s being straight with you. he is the best.

    In house: Jack Kelly from the horsemen / racing association or whatever their name is. In a very high-pressure situation with a lot of players, Jack doesn’t lose his cool. He’s affable, friendly and always willing to talk.

  27. - What Do We Do Now? - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 2:59 pm:

    Contract: Tom Cullen is the humble assassin. He is focused, driven, and consistently successful in both the political and legislative arenas — without chest thumping and public boasting. Tom is quick to digest complex information and develop effective legislative and communications strategies to ensure a successful outcome. A real pro.

  28. - 1776 - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 3:18 pm:

    John Nicolay is a consumate professional and does a great job for all of his clients - the GOOD (Massage Professionals), the BAD (Tenaska) and the UGLY (Chicago Cubs)!!

    John is a great guy with a wonderful personality who has already been elected 3rd House speakers showing the respect he’s earned among his piers.

    I’ve got to go with Rob Karr with IRMA. Genuinely nice guy who actually puts his family above his profession. While he could be out wining & dining every night, on many nights after a long day of work, Rob can be found in Jacksonville coaching his kids soccer team or youth ministry. Nice to see a great balance of work and family. This is on top of being a great lobbyist.

  29. - cutlercantcutcheese - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 3:45 pm:

    Rob Karr is the ultimate gentleman in this profession!!! Not only is he smart he is likable which for a lobbyist is the number one attribute. Plus he has to share an office with McClain so if for no other reason he should win for that alone!!

    Contractor-How can anyone not like Tom Cullen? Smart, likable, affable and as strategic as they come!!

  30. - LilLebowskiAchiever - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:00 pm:

    John Nicolay for contract lobbyist. On top of everything. A zealous advocate for his clients. Respected on both sides of the aisle. And just a terrific human being. He’d be the person I hire.

    AJ Wilhelmi for in house. He stepped right into Medicaid cuts and negotiated a solution to the property tax issue that could have effected a lot of his members.

  31. - Evil Cabel - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:05 pm:

    In House -Rob Karr and Mark Denzler are tops with no equals. Hard to pick which is better but both honest, hard working and do the job with substance.

    Contractor- Bruce Simon. In a world of show ponies the guy is a work horse who delivers!

  32. - reformer - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:19 pm:

    Contract: Al “the Pal” Ronan knows the process as well as anyone, and leads a diverse, bipartisan team that works all major groups in the legislature.

    In House: In a year when pensions are the number one issue, Nick Yelverton provides expertise on a hot-button issue.

  33. - Middle of the Road - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:19 pm:

    Mark Denzler is not only extraordinarily effective, I’ve never seen him take credit for other people’s work like some of the business lobsters. Pairing him with Rob Karr and you have Batman & Robin. But please Mark…no tights!

    Agree that Ed Peck is the rising star of contract lobbyists.

  34. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:19 pm:

    Denzler an easy choice,get alerts from him on issues faster than anyone else representing biz community , by far works harder than most ands understands issues extremely well.

    Mark Strawn, new Third House speaker for contract guys. Polite,lets you know upfront the client he is representing. Very efficient and gets back to you when you request more info immediately.

  35. - ILikeToLobby - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:30 pm:

    Best Contractual- Ed Peck gets my vote. He is a “quiet killer”. He is constantly getting the job done, but never boasts and rarely gets the recognition he deserves. Also, just look at his client list. While it’s not as long as others around the rail, the list is compiled of blue chips such as Exxon Mobile, BCBS, ANGA, ect.. Peck likes to be able to give his clients his utmost attention and dedication, and is not in it for the longest list.

    Best In House Lobbyist- Rob Karr. What a true gentleman. He is honest and fair, and never has a bad word to say about anyone. He is the first one at the Capitol and the last one to leave. His work ethic is hard to beat. And to top it off- he has to put up with Vite everyday. He should win just off that alone.

  36. - downstate hack - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 4:57 pm:

    Best Inhouse Mark Denzker with the IMA, Straight shooter, honest and a genuine and kind person. His volunteer work for St. Judes Children’s Hospital is further evidence of his character.

    Best contract, Ed Peck, effective, knowledgeable and unofficial head of the White Sox Caucus.

  37. - TexasrocksChristmas - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 6:13 pm:

    No doubt my buddy Rob Karr should win. He manages 100 issues a session and wins 99 of them. He is a nice guy to boot.

    Cullen is my other pick. He has been around the block. He knows the members and what makes them tick. Like Karr, he wins.

  38. - Tired - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 7:10 pm:

    Inhouse Scott Humbard he is the man behind Comed and Excellon when the big issues hit either company he is right there to get the job done

    Contract has to be Dave Sullivan he is know for his all around talent can get things done on either side and in either chamber! Treats everyone with respect! Take a look at his client list it’s all over the board and keeps growing longer…..

  39. - Obamas Puppy - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 7:34 pm:

    Contract: John Nicolay huge client list and friends all over the place. No one is better after midnight at Ross Isaacs.

    In House: Keith Sias- the nicest guy in the business and works harder than anyone I know. Even his opponents can’t say a bad word about him.

  40. - Obama Puppy - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 7:39 pm:

    Contract: Nicolay a guy with those dimples and that bad cologne needs to be recognized.
    In House Keith Sias the hardest working man in show business. Never heard anyone say a bad word about him not even his opponents.

  41. - Skeeter - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 8:05 pm:

    Jake Miller for best contract lobbyist, since anybody so dedicated to the cause that they wear a “Saviano” t-shirt in the Caymans deserves some award.

  42. - Looplawyer - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 9:25 pm:

    Beat contract lobbyist is Tom Cullen. Not flashy, but one of the most successful and connected lobbyists under the dome. He knows legislative procedure like the back of his hand.
    Always willing to help others out with advice or a suggestion, and incidentally one of the best political minds in the State.

    For in-house lobbyist, it’s Stephanie Vojas from ITLA…smart as a whip, great personality, and gets the job done for her organization. Not afraid to do the heavy lifting for her client, she truly stands out on the rail. Keep an eye on this rising star.

  43. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 20, 12 @ 10:51 pm:

    Rich, while I haven’t experienced the problem myself, I’ve noticed that there are an increasing number of posts on various threads that have no space following punctuation. Do you think the trouble is at CapFax’s end or the user’s end?

    It’s really irritating trying to read the ones that are affected.

  44. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 21, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    No space? Weird. New on me.

    What browser are you using? Try a different one. Are you using a computer or a mobile device? Be specific, please.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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