Corley Pipes clients
During the last five years, Corley Pipes consultants have represented several local entities, including the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, JPS Health Network, Justin Boots, Creative Solutions in Healthcare (one of the largest independently owned nursing home businesses in Texas), STRAMIT (building materials) and TSGI (Training & Security Group International, based in Weatherford). The firm also represents a number of tech clients such as Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon.com.
Corley Pipes Consulting
421 W. Third St., Suite 900
Fort Worth 76102
“Do you presume to criticize the great Oz? You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you audience tomorrow, instead of 20 years from now. The great Oz has spoken.”
Those are lines spoken by the title character in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. But to many citizens, they could just as well be the words of some elected officials in Washington, D.C. And while there is a perceived disconnect between ordinary citizens and the federal government, there is one Fort Worth-based firm whose business is to break down those communication barriers and assist its clients in having productive interaction with elected officials in the nation’s capital.
That firm is Corley Pipes Consulting, and since its founding in 2010 it has assisted its Tarrant County-based clients in navigating the complex world of Washington politics and regulation.
Scott Corley, 42, and Kasey Pipes, 44, each with impressive resumes of political experience, joined forces to establish Corley Pipes. Prior to co-founding the firm, Corley (the son of a minister who was the dean of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) spent five years as director of government affairs for Microsoft Corp., working directly with the company’s top management including Bill Gates and Steve Balmer. Before that, he was a key staff member for Rep. James Rogan (R-California) and Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia). Corley is a registered lobbyist.
Pipes began his career as an intern in the California office of former President Ronald Reagan. From 1997-99, he was communications director and senior legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Fort Worth). From 1999-2000, he wrote speeches and researched policy for the Bush for President Campaign. From 2001-03, hired by Karl Rove, he wrote speeches and provided policy research and analysis in the George W. Bush administration. In 2004, he was chief author of the National Republican Party Platform. In 2006, he was senior communications adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Corley and Pipes both attended Southwest High School in Fort Worth, where they forged their initial friendship participating in Youth and Government and as members of the debate team. Corley went on to receive his undergraduate degree at Baylor University and a master’s degree in economics from Johns Hopkins University. Pipes received his bachelor’s degree at Abilene Christian University, a master’s in government from Johns Hopkins and a second master’s in journalism from Harvard University.
FORT WORTH AND WASHINGTON, D.C.
“We are the only federal government affairs firm based in Fort Worth,” Pipes told The Fort Worth Business Press. “We maintain a permanent office here, and also have offices in Washington. Scott is our primary ‘boots on the ground’ representative in D.C., commuting back to Fort Worth most weekends. I’m in Fort Worth most of the time, interacting with our clients on a regular basis and traveling to Washington usually about once a month.
“We feel that being based in Fort Worth, and not strictly in Washington, D.C., gives us a greater opportunity to have a good pulse on the needs of our clients that are here in and around Tarrant County,” Pipes explained. “Washington-based firms can tend to speak in ‘coded language’ about what goes on in D.C. People often don’t know a lot about the process and it’s sometimes hard to track, evaluate and measure the results you are getting from your consultant. We want to be exceptional and timely communicators and help to unpack the mystery of Washington a little bit. We want to make sure our clients know how things work and what we are doing to achieve results for them.
“We are not just lobbyists as people might think of in the traditional sense,” Pipes explained. “We work on legislative issues for our clients, interacting with elected officials and their staff members. We are also very involved in regulatory matters, dealing with what can sometimes be the heavy hand of regulation in Washington. We also assist some clients with grants for funding, assisting them with project and program funding that can be secured outside of the budget appropriations process. We also interact a great deal on behalf of clients with members of the media, helping to tell their stories and gain public support for their issues.”
Pipes stressed that, with 100 members in the U.S. Senate, and 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, building relationships and trust with elected officials and their staff members is a key component in successful advocacy.
“It’s very much a relationship business, and we make it our priority to know as many key players as possible in all of the offices we can,” Pipes said. “Another thing we feel is important is that we are a bipartisan firm. While both Scott and I come from a Republican background, we often team up with Marland Buckner, a former staffer for [Democratic] Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York and former chief of staff to [Democratic] Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee.” (Buckner is also married to President Obama’s former chief domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes.)
“As opposed to strictly lobbying in the traditional sense, we view our approach as much more information-based. We want to become subject matter experts and take to elected officials and their staffs insights and ideas that perhaps they haven’t considered. There are so many issues they deal with that it would be impossible for them to be experts in all of them. I feel that elected officials want to help to solve problems if they can. Hopefully what we can offer is insight, information and perspective that helps them to solve problems and helps our clients.
“In order to be successful for our clients, we also see it as critically important to build coalitions of like-minded people who share our clients’ interests and can help in telling their story,” Pipes added. Those coalitions include elected officials, their staff members and constituents.
“We also encourage our clients to be as involved as they can in the process. As their consultants, we are monitoring and working on their issues every day, but it’s also often very helpful for key representatives of the entities we represent to come to D.C. as well. Whether it’s meeting with elected officials and their staff members, testifying at public hearings, or meeting with media representatives to tell their own stories, we encourage our clients to be actively involved in legislative matters that impact them directly.”
Being in the capital every week, Corley brings useful insights and approaches to dealing with members of Congress and their staffs.
“I find that what many people think of as the traditional style of lobbying – sometimes schmoozy and glad-handing – is wasteful,” he said.. “You don’t often get a lot of time with an elected official, so I have developed a very polite but direct style of discussion. I’m very honest and don’t just try and figure out what the member wants to hear. It’s a style that has been very successful for us. It’s about building and maintaining trust in relationships.”
“This work can also be brutally academic,” Corley added. “A lot of the time it’s really not that exciting, but that tedious work is very important. In representing a client, I need to do the research and homework so that I’m able to have detailed conversations with the individual who may have written that particular piece of proposed legislation, understand the nuances and technical aspects of the language, and present my client’s points in a succinct and factual manner within the context of the proposed bill. A lot of the skill is in how you develop and deliver your message and convey your narrative.”
With myriad issues always in front of Congress, Corley said, there is an art to getting a piece of legislation passed. “A lot of people can get a bill 90 percent of the way there, but it’s that final 10 percent that’s so difficult,” he said. “When trying to accomplish that final 10 percent, the effort involved skyrockets, and it takes an enormous amount of political energy and effort to be successful.”
Corley used an analogy of playing chess for the work he does in Washington. “I like to play chess,” he said, “and you have to systematize anything you do. Lobbying can feel like a social exercise but it’s not at all. There are strategies and tactics, and it’s about being able to develop and differentiate those. In politics and in chess, it’s about your opponent; the board is simply a reflection of who they are, their personality and thought process.
“Part of what draws me to this work is it’s like playing chess without being able to put your hands on the pieces. Plus the pieces themselves have independent thoughts about what they should do on the board, but very few of those pieces are in a place where they can see the entire board. Your job in trying to navigate on behalf of a client is to convince the piece not only to move to the place that you want them to move to, but to trust that you see the board appropriately and know what your opponent is likely to do in response. The end game is to win on the issue.”
“There are some very smart people in Washington, D.C., as elected officials, staff members and governmental relations professionals,” Corley continued. “Not just book smart, but those with a tremendous ability to read people. It’s kind of like dealing with hundreds of folks who are all like those people we all knew in high school – the ones you knew were going to be successful. … you may not be able to put your finger on why, but you knew it. That’s basically what D.C. is comprised of.”
THE TEXAS VIEW
Considering whether Texas businesses face any unique challenges in Washington, Pipes had some interesting observations.
“We hear a lot about, and we see every day, growth in the Texas economy, and we hear about the ‘Texas Miracle’ of job creation here in the state. But sometimes the reaction to that in Washington can be very different, especially at the agency level. Those are regulators whose job, by definition, is to regulate. They don’t always see growth the way we do. Sometimes they see growth as challenges, whether it’s the potential for excessive environmental regulations, labor regulations, OSHA regulations or matters with the IRS. A lot of actions confronting business do not come from Congress, but are at the agency level. And it may be that way going forward.
“As a business, you need to be able to defend yourself in Washington and what could be regulation with unintended consequences. Some businesses may think that they’re not impacted by Washington, but they are.”
PRESIDENTIAL CHOICES …
With the presidential election looming on Nov. 8, Pipes pointed out one area where two very distinct candidates may share some similarities.
“Secretary [Hillary] Clinton is certainly left of center and is comfortable with an active regulatory state. I would certainly think that if she is elected, we would see that continue. On the other hand, Mr. [Donald] Trump is not a traditional free-market conservative. He is very much an economic populist. He likes, and has talked about, using government to intervene in certain places in the market. Both appear to be comfortable with having government have a say in the affairs of the marketplace.
“I think it would be wise for anyone to take a look at that and plan ahead for the next few years, because I think you will continue to have an active government asking a lot of questions about business.”