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Heritage Action’s Dan Holler to Join Rubio Staff

Revolving door spins from conservative group to Congress, Trump administration

Sen. Marco Rubio's latest hire comes from the lobbying arm of a prominent conservative group. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Marco Rubio's latest hire comes from the lobbying arm of a prominent conservative group. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Dan Holler, a founding staffer of Heritage Action for America, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s lobbying arm, will follow his former boss to the Capitol Hill office of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Holler will serve as deputy chief of staff for the Florida Republican, focusing on communications and outreach, he told Roll Call. The new gig will reunite him with his recent Heritage Action boss Michael Needham, who left in April to become Rubio’s chief of staff.

“This will be a new challenge for sure,” Holler said during a phone interview.

He added that Heritage Action has been working to “revitalize” the conservative agenda for the modern era in which some core items, such as free trade, have become increasingly polarized even within the GOP.

“These are the same challenges that led to the current populist trend in our nation’s politics,” Holler said. “Sen. Rubio understands those challenges — both at home and abroad — and is leading the effort on Capitol Hill to act. Joining his incredibly talented team was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.”

Holler, 35,  began his career as an intern at the Heritage Foundation and then joined Heritage Action when it started in 2010.  He’s known for communicating the organization’s conservative principles to Capitol Hill and the news media. 

“Dan’s one of the most talented people in Washington and we are excited to have him join Senator Rubio’s office,” Needham said in an emailed statement. “His collaborative style, substantive expertise and strategic leadership will be critical to the work Senator Rubio is doing.”   Jessica Anderson is expected to return to Heritage Action after 16 months at the Office of Management and Budget, where she is associate director for intergovernmental affairs and strategic initiatives, to replace Holler as vice president.

“I am confident that Heritage Action is poised to continue playing a leading role for years to come,” Holler said.

Anderson, Holler and Needham are among a long list of Heritage Action staffers who have spun through a revolving door between the organization and the federal government.   

Dan Ziegler, a managing director of government relations for Heritage Action, this year became the executive director of the Republican Study Committee, the largest House conservative caucus. Dustin Carmack and Jason Yaworske are chiefs of staff for GOP Reps. John Ratcliffe of Texas and Warren Davidson of Ohio, respectively. James Braid is deputy chief of staff for Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina, and Russ Vought now serves as deputy director of OMB.

Heritage and Heritage Action have been in transition this year. Kay Coles James, who served in both Bush administrations, took over the foundation as president in January and cuts a more measured profile than her predecessor, the bombastic former Sen. Jim DeMint, whom the group’s board ousted last year.  

During Holler and Needham’s tenure, Heritage Action took on high-profile campaigns, such as an unsuccessful effort to shut down the credit finance agency Export-Import Bank. Heritage has aligned itself frequently with the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress including on last year’s tax overhaul package and on efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations.

But on some matters, such as the Trump administration’s effort to impose new tariffs, Heritage Action is opposed.  

“I am incredibly grateful for the past 13 years at Heritage and Heritage Action, and the role we have played in the national debate and the programs we have built,” Holler said. “I have been privileged to work with some of the most dedicated conservatives in Washington and around the country.”

Heritage Action produces an annual scorecard on how lawmakers voted on issues important to conservatives. Much of the political group’s influence on policy comes from its nationwide grassroots network, but in recent years the group has boosted its investment in Hill lobbying, according to congressional lobbying disclosures.

Heritage Action reported spending $820,000 on lobbying in 2017, its most ever, compared with just $62,000 in 2010, the year that Republicans captured control of the House. Heritage Action had annual revenue of about $12 million, according to a 2016 IRS form, while the foundation’s annual revenue was $82 million. Holler’s compensation was just shy of $200,000 that year, according to the filings.

Correction 2:30 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated Dustin Carmack’s current position. He is chief of staff for Rep. John Ratcliffe.

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