Andy Blunt: Having the Ball During Crunch Time

  

Many people know Andy Blunt as top lobbyist and a named partner in a respected law firm Schreimann, Rackers, Francka & Blunt, LLC, brother of the only Republican governor in many Capitol staffers’ lifetimes – Matt Blunt, and the son of Missouri’s leading statesman Senator Roy Blunt, but we learned that many people do not know the story in how Andy Blunt played the key in the success they enjoy today.

Blunt with father, Roy Blunt, during his 1984 campaign for secretary of state
Blunt with father, Roy Blunt, during his 1984 campaign for secretary of state

The Blunt family moved to Jefferson City when Andy’s father became Missouri Secretary of State. However, in high school, Andy was not a young Republicans club kind of guy.  He played sports and was much more interested in his friends at Jeff City High than being chairman of the local Pachyderm club.

As a child, he was an Eagle Scout before running track and cross country in high school.

He jokes that he and his friends would show up to political events and horse around.  The significance of the work his father was doing would not hit Blunt until much later.

“I had no idea how big of a deal that was. I knew how important it was to our family, but I didn’t know the magnitude of what he was doing. Dad coached my sports teams and he was good to come home at night no matter where he was in the state. He was always there in the morning for breakfast, so I didn’t think there was anything that different about his job than any of my friends dads,” Blunt said.

Growing up, he says he didn’t even know what a lobbyist was because his father didn’t work with them much, “My experience with the Capitol was going at night and throwing tennis balls off the rotunda.”

Senior year of high school, Andy started dating Jill, who would, in just a few years, become his wife. “She pretty well knew what she was getting into,” he said of his wife about his family’s relationship to politics.  Blunt’s wife now spends her time at home with their two children, a boy and a girl. The family also has three dogs and two hamsters.

When he was in college, his father ran for congress.  He was able to travel with his father’s campaign and from there built a deep interest in politics.  Andy finished college a semester early and took some time to work for David Barklage. “I worked for him for the Senate Majority Fund and HRCC.” Then, when Andy was a senior his father began his first term in congress.

Later Andy headed Law School at UMKC. “I always planned to be an attorney. That was always my plan – to go to law school and practice business law. I had no idea I would become a lobbyist”, he said.

After his first year at UMKC, his brother Matt, who in the meantime had ran for and won a term in the Missouri House asked him a question that would alter the course he had planned. “Matt asked me to run his campaign for Secretary of State”.

His father was very opposed to him running the campaign fearing he would never return to law school after catching the political bug and he knew a tough race would put stress on young Andy. Together he, Spence Jackson, and Nathan Adams successfully helped Matt win the race and become one of the youngest statewide elected officials in state history.

Former governor, Matt Blunt, with Andy
Former governor, Matt Blunt, with Andy

Erasing his father’s concerns, Andy returned to law school after the campaign – this time at MU – in order to be closer to his wife, who was working in Jefferson City at the time. “I think dad was right to be worried about me not returning to school, but honestly I never considered not completing my degree and at that time, I planned on becoming a litigator, and, in some ways, still dream about doing that.”

After graduating from law school in 2001, he joined the firm now known as Polsinelli – partially due to Jill’s cousin being with the firm. It was at this time he began to wade into the lobbying field. I picked up one lobbying job and it worked out and that led into another.”

Blunt’s entry into lobbying coincided with the Republican takeover of the General Assembly. “There were some clients who felt having a person connected with the Republican caucus was necessary, and several opportunities arose, but there were increasing conflicts with my firm.”

He then decided to become a lobbyist full time and wanted to start his own firm. However, that set up an uncomfortable conversation with Jill’s cousin who was a partner in the firm. “His reaction was, ‘you know, Andy, if you’re leaving, then I am, too. I’m ready for a new challenge.’” In the end, four attorneys left to form the firm of Schreimann, Rackers, Francka & Blunt, LLC. They now do all types of law, except for family law and criminal law.

Today, Blunt is one of the Capitol’s most successful lobbyists with clients including Philip Morris, BNSF Railway Company, American Airlines, AT&T, Ameren UE, Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, and many others.

“I enjoy the chess match of the legislative process in the Capitol.” Lobbying fits Andy’s personality well, with its mix of professional law and political savvy.  Lobbying is faster moving than law, and he enjoys having more than one issue to focus on at one time.  Andy tries to get as involved as possible in the biggest issues of the day.

Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, said, “Andy has the uncanny ability to navigate political and legislative waters, not just in Missouri but nationwide.  Few people have the capabilities to do this, let alone the contacts.”

For a time, Blunt had some concerns that his last name might hold him back in his lobbying work.  “I had a big problem trusting that some people were wanting to embarrass me or hurt me because of my last name. Then I would get calls from Democrats saying they were told to sit down and meet me because I was a good person to work with.”

Today, partisan issues surrounding Blunt are unheard of. Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said, “Andy puts in the work. He knows his issues thoroughly. He knows how they will fit into the legislative process and he does the legwork to make sure he effectively communicates with all the legislators involved.”

Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said, “Andy Blunt is a consummate professional and very ably balances his political background with his advocacy work.”

But he soon realized that there was more openness in the Capitol than he imagined.  He quickly found that people on both sides of the aisle are well motivated individuals, and that party does not come into play much in most lobbying efforts.  “Andy Blunt is a true stand out in his field. He has a great understanding of the job and a great appreciation of what it takes to do his job”, said Senator Jay Wasson, R-Green County.

He is careful when mixing his Missouri political consulting work with his lobbying career. “I think it’s tough to do both. Ultimately I decided that it wouldn’t work to do a lot political consulting in Missouri and lobbying outside of my family’s races”

One trait his father is known for is being adept at caucus politics. Upon winning his House seat, he quickly rose to the number two position in the House, and is rumored to be a leading contender to enter Senate leadership. We asked Andy if any of the traits he observed in his father’s ability to rise inside his caucus were useful to him in his lobbying career.

“My dad keeps an open mind about people. The thing I’ve learned the most from him is that he figures out a way to like everybody, – it makes life everything

Andy with his father after his father won his senatorial bid
Andy with his father after his father won his senatorial bid

easier that way.” He says his father taught him to figure out a way to identify with every person he meets.  He says that it’s easier for his father, but that he is always working to improve himself in that regard.

Today, Blunt stays out of political consulting in Missouri unless his father is on the ballot. He says, “My clients might give me a pass if I’m working for someone with my last name, but probably not if I went and worked with anyone else.” Andy spends some time every day keeping up with campaign work for his father.

The 2016 campaign is just now heating up. He still makes quarterly trips to Washington for campaign updates, and the time commitment won’t really reach a fever pitch until after the 2016 legislative session. “You know, anymore running these big races amounts to really managing a lot of vendors, so it is hours on the phone making decisions.”

“I was amazed last campaign the amount of money we spent on digital and web and online advertising and videos trying reach people like my wife, who the only way to reach her is infiltrating her computer. That is a tough world for me because I still prefer a hard copy of a book or magazine.”

“My father’s races will be my last campaigns in Missouri, but I am contemplating branching out to some consulting work in other states. I just think to be a leading lobbying firm in Missouri that should be the focus of your activities in Missouri. The only exception would be Mike Kehoe. He and his wife are close personal friends. They have been friends of ours long before politics and will be long after.”

The affection is returned. “Andy is very good at presenting his issue as well as the other side to understand the full implication of the legislation. That quality is rare in this building,” said Senator Kehoe.

“He doesn’t take a client on unless in his heart he believes in the issue and its implications for the state. He only takes clients he believes in with his own moral compass”,

“Honestly 90% of the issues I work on do not involve partisan politics. Most of the issues lobbyist work on involves putting together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to pass things”.

While Blunt has some of the best connections in Washington of anyone in the state he has found a fit in lobbying. “I like the multitude of issue you have to deal with. It keeps your mind sharp and gives you exposure to a lot different policy discussions you otherwise wouldn’t be involved in.”

Those who know him know he likes being in the middle of the most heated issues in the Capitol. “I like having the ball during crunch time. I want to be involved in the biggest issues in a session. Whatever is going on with the big issues usually drives the other issues.”

Blunt concluded, “I love it. I’m hesitant to say this in print, but some days I can’t believe I get paid to do what I do.”

Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.