MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Stephen Boyd, a veteran Capitol Hill staffer and former Assistant Attorney General, is leaving government service after almost two decades to join the Horizons Global Strategies lobbying firm.
Alabama Daily News previously reported in the November 10 edition of Inside Alabama Politics that Boyd was departing his role as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville after almost two years on the job. Boyd is leaving government having served nearly four years as Assistant Attorney General of the United States, a Senate-confirmed officer at the Department of Justice that positioned Boyd as Attorneys General Sessions’ and Barr’s top representative to Congress during the Trump Administration. Previously Boyd served for 6 years as Chief of Staff to Rep. Martha Roby in the House of Representatives, and 6 years in the office of Senator Jeff Sessions and on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Boyd will also do something else that his government service previously wouldn’t allow: he’ll be contributing a regular column to Alabama Daily News, leaning on his almost 20 years in Washington to provide insight on what’s happening in Congress from an Alabama perspective. ADN readers can expect the first of Boyd’s columns in the coming days.
ADN caught up with Boyd for a quick Q&A about his career change, his hopes for the private sector and what readers can expect from his column.
TODD STACY: Stephen, thanks for doing this. I suppose congratulations are in order – congrats on nearly two decades in government service between the Senate, House and DOJ, and congrats on launching your private sector career.
You already had a great career before this two-year stint with Senator Tuberville. In many ways, it would have made sense to jump to the private sector as a top DOJ official. What made you return to the Senate and take on the Tuberville Chief job?
Stephen Boyd: It was really just the chance to help Coach Tuberville get started and, by extension, continue to serve my home state. I didn’t know that much about Coach, except that he kept beating us in football. When I sat down with him it only took a few minutes to realize he has a great talent for listening to people and understanding what matters to them. That’s a skill, and you can see why he was a great recruiter. As you know, new Members need people around them who understand how to get things done in Washington. I’d already worked in the Senate, and I also had set up an office for Rep. Roby in the House, so I felt like I had the experience to help with that. Opportunities to serve at that level don’t come around every day, so I jumped at the chance to build an effective operation. It’s a professional highlight to get to do something that promotes good governance in D.C., you don’t find it everywhere. A new Member of Congress starts from a blank slate—empty desks and a phone number, basically. So, the goal was to put together a strong team and solid organization, and put some early points on the board. I think we accomplished that in the annual defense bill, the NDAA, and some other areas. To be honest, it was a lot of fun. Met some great folks that I hope will be lifelong friends.
TS: I remember back when you were Assistant Attorney General, ABC News ran this story saying you had the ”Worst job in Washington.” You were representing the entire Department and FBI before Congress during some pretty heated days with the Russia investigation going on and a lot of political turmoil. How bad was it?
SB: Well, it certainly had its moments. “Main Justice,” which is what the headquarters building is called, is on Pennsylvania Avenue literally half way between the Capitol and the White House. A lot of days the pull between the two was more than metaphorical. But we had a great team, and we kept our head down, managed the cards we were dealt, and stayed committed to trying to accommodate Congress’s need for information while also protecting the law enforcement process and sensitive information. I think we earned a degree of respect on the Hill for how we handled a tough situation in a professional way, even from folks that, frankly, really opposed the Administration or the Attorney General. At DOJ they say “come for the mission, but stay for the people.” And that’s right. Incredibly dedicated folks working to keep us safe at home and abroad, especially in the national security, counter intelligence, and counter terrorism worlds.
TS: And the best part of working on the Hill?
SB: Same answer, actually—almost universally I worked with great people. Basically, all of my friends are former co-workers. I guess that says something. Other than that, proud of all we did over the years in NDAA and appropriations to support the military and to grow Alabama’s defense footprint. Missile defense. Redstone. F-35s. Army aviation. Shipbuilding in Mobile. Obviously, a big team effort for many of those things, but proud to have played a part.
TS: Talk to me about Horizons Global Solutions. Why this firm, why now?
Well, two things. First, it’s a chance to work closely on issues I care a lot about, which also happen to be really important to Alabama. We’ll do a lot of things, but we’re mainly focused on defense, biotech, aerospace, intelligence, and law enforcement. If you look at some of the growth areas in Alabama over the last decade, those are high on the list. That’s especially true in Huntsville with the defense and space work there, plus the new FBI headquarters and, hopefully SPACECOM. Horizons will have both a Huntsville and Washington office.
The other thing is pretty simple. My partner, David Lasseter, and I have known each other since law school. He was a Chief in the House when I was, represented United Technologies, worked at DOJ with me and went on to a very senior position at the Pentagon. Plus, he’s a Marine, so enough said. He, his wife Julie, who is a partner in the firm, my wife Brecke, and I all share the same values about how to treat people, how to help people be successful, and how to go about our business in the right way. So, this is just a unique opportunity to build a great firm with people you know and trust, and work on issues you care about. That’s really compelling.
TS: Alabama Daily News has many readers who are familiar with lobbying and advocacy at the state level, but not necessarily the federal level. Does the sheer scope of it all make it a challenge?
SB: I’m sure there are unique challenges at every level. But, in Washington, things have changed so much. Power and influence are much more decentralized than before. The days when you could just count on one senior guy to take care of you are pretty much over. Now you need a strategy to win in the House and Senate, in the Executive Branch, in the legal arena, and in the media. And those are very different forums, with different processes. Relationships will always be very important, but today you really have to understand how decisions are made behind the scenes. Also, there is so much information at the national level and it moves fast. At the same time, there is a lot of political noise that really doesn’t matter much at all. It’s easy to get lost. Having the experience to sort through all that on behalf of the client is half the battle—maybe more.
And, as you know, I love Congress as an institution, but honestly, it’s a pretty sick patient right now in terms of legislative health. That’s a conversation for another day I guess, but suffice it to say that it’s getting harder, not easier, to get things accomplished. And that just reinforces my point about experience.
TS: When I think of lobbying firms, my mind goes to the giants: the BGRs, Patton Boggs, Brownstein with hundreds of staff. You guys are smaller, self-described as “boutique.” Does that make you more nimble?
SB: The short answer is yes. I know a lot of those guys and many of them do a great job for their clients. But I’ve been lobbied one way or another for basically my entire adult life, and I’ve seen it done well and also not so well. So, at this point I have some pretty strong feelings about the right way to do business. With Horizons, when we see an opportunity that makes sense, we can move on it. There’s no bureaucracy. We have all worked in the House, Senate, and the Executive Branch. Not many can say that. In addition, we are a bipartisan practice which is essential for clients especially in time of divided government in Washington. We’ve also worked with the media, and we’re able to integrate with legal teams to support our clients if that is necessary. We know what to do. Also, we don’t want a hundred clients. We want the right clients that we believe in, that we can invest in as partners to help them succeed and grow—and, as a result, do big things for our state and country.
TS: So Katie Britt is assuming office in January. That’s another former Alabama chief of staff and I know yall go way back. What are your thoughts on her getting started and, in particular, what implications there will be on Alabama’s seniority given that we are losing Sen. Shelby?
SB: This is a big deal. I’ve known Katie for a long time, and our professional paths have crossed back and forth. Katie and Wesley are wonderful people. I think she and Coach are going to make a great team. I couldn’t be happier about it. Also, I know the top folks in both offices and they’ll work really well together. That actually makes a huge difference behind the scenes for the state—more than people probably realize.
And you’re right, seniority matters a lot. No doubt there’s ground to make up. I guess it gets better every day, right? But a lot of folks don’t realize that the House delegation is very strong right now. Mike Rogers will be Chairman of House Armed Services Committee, and he and his team will do an excellent job. Rep. Aderholt is very senior of appropriations. That’s huge. Gary Palmer leads the Republican policy committee. And Terri Sewell is very well regarded in the Democratic caucus, to say nothing of the White House, and her influence stands to grow. Even the newer House members are positioning themselves on the right committees to support the state. I think Dale Strong is going to come in and do a great job for North Alabama. There is plenty to be optimistic about.
TS: You’re going to be writing a regular column for Alabama Daily News focused on Congress and the federal government. We’re super excited about that, by the way. What can readers expect from this column?
Big picture, I think there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there these days. We’re all worse off for it. Honestly, having seen how people are manipulated by false information scares me. I think it’s a real threat, especially on social media. Our democracy is stronger when the public understands more—not less—about what is really happing in the nation’s capital. So, if I can play a small role in helping to explain things, put things in context, and share factual information, that’s worth it.
Beyond that, hopefully the column becomes the go-to for information about what is really happening in Congress and how it relates to Alabama. One thing that is pretty universal in Washington is that senior staff and Members of Congress meet on the first day of the week to walk through the week ahead. Committee work. Legislative action. Communications plan. Current events and news from home that matters. That sort of thing. I’ve been in that meeting maybe a thousand times, so the column will hopefully take the reader there. Everyone crammed in the boss’s office. Time is limited. Get to the point. Not the place for rhetoric or commentary. Tell me what I need to know, with some insight and context. So, that’s what I’ll focus on. And, as a former staffer, if I can shine some light on good staff work by Alabama’s delegation along the way, I’m going to do that too.