McGivern, a longtime AT&T lobbyist who last month joined the lobby firm Ogilvy Government Relations, is among a tight network of Ryan friends and advisers on K Street — many of whom are former colleagues from Ryan’s time working for Brownback and Empower America, the think tank co-founded by wonky supply-sider Jack Kemp. They include Mike Thompson, a lobbyist at Goldman Sachs, and Howard Waltzman, an attorney at the law firm Mayer Brown.
McGivern declined to comment. Thompson and Waltzman did not immediately return requests for comment.
Other lobbyists in the Ryan orbit are Rob Collins, a former aide to then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who knows Ryan through the Young Guns network; Mike Ference, another former Cantor aide; Dan Mattoon of Mattoon & Associates, former deputy chair of the NRCC who met Ryan through McGivern in the late ’90s; former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, who was chief executive of Empower America when Ryan was a junior staffer in the early 90s; and Katheryn Lehman of Holland & Knight, who met Ryan through McGivern when Ryan was mounting his first campaign for the House in 1998.
“He said, ‘There’s this guy running for Congress. He works for me, he’s going to be awesome,'” Lehman recalled of McGivern’s introduction. “I was like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ And he was right. I met [Ryan] and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s 12 [years old]. But he’s great.'”
Despite these high-profile ties, Ryan isn’t considered especially chummy with K Street. He and his office are cordial and receptive to lobbyists who bring clients to meet with him, but he’s not a regular on the Capitol Hill bar scene or at the golf course. He is known as a workhorse who spends his down time doing P90X workouts and going home to Janesville, Wis.
His speakership could usher in a different style than the D.C. establishment is accustomed to.
“If you want to go to the Capitol Hill Club and crack a beer, he’s got better things to do with his time, probably,” said Collins, now at the boutique GOP lobby firm S-3 Group. “It doesn’t mean he’s anti- or pro-K Street, it just means he lives his life through a different prism.”
Collins added: “Some of the social lobbyists and people who get things done in that space may not be happy, but people who have clients who have substantive, constructive ideas about how to make our country better are going to do fine.”
Ryan’s House office has low turnover and and there are few former Ryan staffers working downtown, particularly compared to previous speakers. One of his closet confidants, Joyce Meyer, has been a top aide since 1999, and is currently the staff director for the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Talking to Joyce is like talking to Paul if you want to pass along something,” Mattoon said.
Among lobbyists, Ryan has a reputation of often being more familiar with the minutiae of policy, especially tax and trade issues, than some of the lobbyists bringing the issue to his office.
“He’s kind of a wonk,” Lehman said. “An affable nerd. But because he works out so much, he’s kind of like a jock too. He’s the ultimate affable nerd jock.”
Lehman added that she has always known Ryan to be principled and not easily swayed.
“The interesting thing about Paul is just because you’re friends with him, he’ll still argue with you about stuff,” Lehman said. “You can have a good conversation with him about something, but if his mind’s made up, his mind’s made up.”
“It’s not like back in the old days where it was, ‘Oh you’re my friend, I’ll do anything for you.’ He’s a very principled guy, he thinks what he thinks.”