Touting years of experience in Texas politics, Andrea McWilliams is the second highest-paid lobbyist in Texas.

Andrea is the wife of Dean McWilliams, another top lobbyist in Austin, and her history of persuading lawmakers on hot-button legislation makes her a well-known force within the Austin establishment.

According to a profile in OZY:

McWilliams is a smooth talker, peppering in many “dears” to our conversation. She talks of the government like its many staffers are family. And the connection isn’t entirely false — McWilliams’ mother worked 18 years for former state representative Steven Wolens as an administrative aide. That helped her get that teenage gig, and at 17 she was working for State Representative René Oliveira.

As the article further notes, McWilliams landed a job as chief of staff for Democrat State Rep. Richard Raymond (Laredo) at the age of 21.

With a maximum income amount of $8,089,999 over two years, based on reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, it’s important to look at who she represents. According to Transparency USA, 20 percent of her clients are taxpayer-funded, including the City of Laredo. She is employed by a plethora of corporations such as Neiman Marcus, MetLife, and Office Depot, but her top employer is tax firm Ryan LLC.

A member of its PAC board, Andrea McWilliams records receiving up to $599,999.98 from the tax firm, which begs the question, What does Ryan LLC do?

While its status as a tax firm may not seem controversial, there’s more beneath the surface. According to a profile in The New York Times:

Once an accounting firm, Ryan LLC transformed itself in recent years into a powerhouse focused on corporate tax breaks. Mr. Ryan is a familiar presence at the state comptroller’s office in Austin, which must sign off on many tax breaks. He is known there for his laser focus and forceful negotiating skills. “It’s gloves-off, full-frontal assault,” said a former official, who requested anonymity because of state confidentiality rules.

Ryan LLC’s history of exercising influence in Texas politics to secure special tax breaks for corporations raises concerns about corporate welfare’s tendency to unfairly favor certain businesses over others with less political sway. With Andrea McWilliams serving as their top lobbyist, one must wonder exactly what legislation she has pushed for in the Texas Capitol.

There is one recent deal she appears to have had a hand in.

Last May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott received heavy criticism after announcing a $295 million contract with MTX Group, a little-known tech company, to spearhead the state’s contact tracing effort. While grassroots conservatives expressed privacy concerns, Abbott also received bipartisan heat for hastily choosing a company that many thought wasn’t qualified.

Behind the scenes, the contract was put together quickly, with potential contractors given only a couple of days to submit their bids. The same day the deal was approved, Andrea McWilliams and her husband Dean reported that they had started to lobby for MTX Group, at a rate of $50,000 each.

There is one entity McWilliams won’t be representing this year: the City of Dallas. As Texas Scorecard reported in December, the city council rejected hiring Andrea McWilliams as the fourth member of its taxpayer-funded lobbyist team for the Texas Legislature by a vote of 6-9.

While budget limitations due to the coronavirus were cited, Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman alleged Mayor Eric Johnson tried to hire her without a council vote.

Andrea McWilliams has been a powerful force in the Texas Legislature. As with all lobbyists, however, it is important to consider the special interests she represents and whether the special interests on her paychecks align with the public interest of Texas.

This article is part of a series of profiles on Texas’ highest-paid lobbyists by Texas Scorecard.

Michael Swirsky

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Swirsky is a writing fellow for Texas Scorecard. Interests include speech and debate, chess, and of course Texas politics.