One of the most respected policy minds in House GOP circles may have left Capitol Hill, but he isn’t going far.
Neil Bradley, the former deputy chief of staff for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — and for Eric Cantor before him — will help run the Young Guns Network as it undergoes an identity transformation from a 501(c)4 dedicated to conservative principles to a similar Republican group with a different name.
The YG Network, as it’s more commonly known, will become the Conservative Reform Network and Bradley, who spent 20 years on Capitol Hill, will play the “chief strategic role,” according to YG Network Communications Director Chris Bond.
Bond said while some things at the YG Network will change — the Conservative Reform Network will continue to be a “hub” for Republicans looking to change policies.
“It more accurately describes what we do,” Bond said, suggesting the group has been and will continue to be a traffic cop for conservative think tanks and proposals.
Bradley laid out a vision of “collecting, disseminating and incubating conservative ideas,” without playing favorites for one issue.
“I’ve been a generalist most of my time on the Hill,” he told CQ Roll Call in a recent phone interview. “I want something that is broad. I’ve always wanted to have kind of a broad brush and work on a lot of different policy issues.”
Bradley, who has served on GOP leadership staffs for the past 11 years — first as policy director for then-GOP Whip Roy Blunt before serving in that role for Cantor — said it’s time to try something different.
“Working in my dad’s radiator shop and working on Capitol Hill are kind of how I’ve spent my career,” said Bradley, a native of Sapulpa, Okla.
In addition to his new responsibilities with the Conservative Reform Network, Bradley will also open his own consulting firm: Chartwell Policy Solutions.
Bradley said the name “Chartwell” stuck with him for a few years because of its Google-ability and because it was the home of Winston Churchill.
“I’ve always been a Churchill fan,” he said.
Chartwell won’t be a lobbying firm, and it will only be a side business, but Bradley said he hopes to help clients analyze how and why certain things are happening a certain way in Congress.
It’s a role the 39-year-old is quite familiar with: He has spent years directing much of the policy in the GOP conference, informing leadership of what is possible and helping to write some of the biggest pieces of legislation to become law, such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
TARP may have been the most interesting moment of his Capitol Hill career in a career that has seen its fair share of such moments, Bradley said.
Another came in June, when Cantor lost his primary to fellow Virginia Republican Dave Brat.
In the aftermath, Bradley offered to work with McCarthy to provide some temporary continuity.
“If you think I can be helpful, I want to be helpful,” Bradley remembers telling McCarthy.
But in Bradley’s telling, the position in McCarthy’s office was always supposed to be short-term, aimed at helping the new majority leader get his operation off the ground. Bradley’s departure, which officially took effect at the beginning of March, has been a long time coming.
Prior to serving as Blunt’s policy director, Bradley was executive director of the Republican Study Committee from December 1999 to May 2004. Before that, he held numerous positions for Rep. Tom Coburn, starting as an intern while at Georgetown. (Coburn’s office hired Bradley while he was still in college and Bradley organized his schedule so his classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)
By the time he graduated from Georgetown in 1998 with a degree in government — with honors — Bradley had already moved up in Coburn’s office from staff assistant, to legislative correspondent, to legislative assistant with a budget and appropriations portfolio. All that experience came in handy when Coburn tried to hold up an appropriations bill with legislative proposals. “I was the guy who wrote 200 amendments,” Bradley said.
A longtime denizen of Roll Call’s Fabulous 50 list, Bradley said it’s not easy saying goodbye to Capitol Hill.
“The thing I’ll miss is the people,” he said. “That’s sort of what will makes this hard.”
In keeping with the relationships he’s built over the course of his entire adult life, there was no shortage of lawmakers or staffers willing to weigh in with kind words for Bradley.
McCarthy said Bradley served the House with distinction for two decades.
“Neil’s rise from part-time intern to senior aide in multiple leadership offices is the product of his unmatched work ethic, integrity and intelligence,” McCarthy said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “For as long I’ve known Neil, I’ve valued his unrelenting enthusiasm for commonsense conservative policy solutions and his dedication to public service.”
Former Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement Bradley was indispensable as an adviser to House leadership. “His encyclopedic knowledge, strategic insight and institutional wisdom played a role in nearly every major congressional decision over the past 6 years,” Cantor said. “He will continue to be a force pushing positive conservative reforms for years to come.”
While senior staffers praised Bradley’s intellect and institutional knowledge — as well as his “common sense and good humor,” in the words of Energy and Commerce Staff Director Gary Andres — Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan, one of the three “Young Guns” with Cantor and Ryan, said Bradley is “one of the very best policy minds I have ever worked with in Congress.”
And the ever-effusive Patrick T. McHenry, the chief deputy whip from North Carolina, told CQ Roll Call via text message that Bradley knows the ins and outs of policy and the legislative process. “He’s a brilliant policy mind,” McHenry said.
“At any given moment Neil can tell you the most conservative outcome achievable in the House, what alternatives will or won’t work, and why. It’s an enormous loss for the institution. He’ll be missed.”