Leadership

Our Strengths

Our leaders have been chosen for their expertise, values and savvy in working effectively for many years at the intersection of public policy and politics. Our deep experience, combined with an emphasis on discrete and exemplary service, helps us to achieve our clients’ goals in challenging times.

We have a strong track record of working cohesively with our clients and each other. Our team’s experience in government and with many different industry sectors and regions around the world allows us to understand how best to address our clients’ issues at the governmental level.

“We’re Your Sherpa Through Turbulent Times”
NYT, March 13, 2017

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Our Team

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.

Ronald Reagan

Barry BennettPartner

Active in conservative politics for 30 years, Barry recently served as Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign. Earlier in the 2016 election cycle, he managed the campaign of Dr. Ben Carson for President. During his tenure, Barry led a GOP-record $60 million fundraising effort and built a multi-faceted social media program, engaging more than 5 million Dr. Carson followers on Facebook.

His focus on effective use of new technologies and data have produced historic results for his clients, campaigns and causes. In 2012, he was part of a team to register a record 1.2 Million new Christian voters. In addition, he established former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Super Pac in 2012. He also executive produced the highly effective “King of Bain” documentary for former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Super Pac. In 2010, Bennett led the coordination of outside group spending in the successful effort to re-gain GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives. His clients have also set records in generating calls and public comments to Congress and Executive Branch agencies.

Previously, Barry served President George W. Bush as G-8 Communications Director, when the United States hosted the meeting. He also served as Chief of Staff to three different Members of Congress. Before that, while putting himself through school, he became the Assistant Sargent of Arms of the Ohio Senate. Barry, his wife Melissa and their two children live in Virginia with their Saint Bernard, Brownie.

George E. BirnbaumPartner

George Birnbaum joined Avenue Strategies in mid-2017, but came of age during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He first signed onto Congressman Bob McEwen’s (R-OH) tough reelection campaign, and later worked on campaigns in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.

During the 1996 cycle, Birnbaum served as deputy political director and director of survey research under National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Alfonse D’Amato. Birnbaum’s work on several key races helped ensure that Republicans maintained their hold on the U.S. Senate. Subsequently, Birnbaum managed Charlie Crist’s 1998 challenger campaign against incumbent Senator Bob Graham in Florida. Though unsuccessful, the campaign helped set up Crist for his later successful runs for Florida state education commissioner, Attorney General, and Governor.

It was after the 1996 cycle that Birnbaum’s career took an international turn when he agreed to consult for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign. Birnbaum eventually served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, a position he held for a year and a half.

Since 2003, Birnbaum has consulted and managed campaigns throughout Europe and the Middle East. He is credited with having helped elected Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gussenbauer, Prime Minister of Bulgaria Sergey Stanishev, Prime Minister of Romania Colin Taricaneau, Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, and President of Serbia Boris Tadic. In 2008, he helped elect Nir Barkat as Mayor of Jerusalem, and in 2009 he helped Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party become the 3rd largest party in Israel – a position of strength which resulted in Mr. Lieberman’s ascension to the position of Foreign Minister in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet.

In 2010 Birnbaum helped with electing Prime Minister Peter Necas in the Czech Republic at a time when the free-market political party ODS was on the verge of losing. Also in 2010, the Birnbaum helped the center-right Fidesz party win a sixty percent majority in the Hungarian parliament, a record-setting achievement for any political party in any country since the founding of the European Union. Then again in 2014, then he helped re-elect Prime Minister Victor Orban in Hungary with a two-thirds majority making it the first time in European history to re-elect a Prime Minister with such a large majority.

In 2013, Mr. Birnbaum was integral in advising Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman of Israel to unite their two parties and run as a single party in the Israeli national elections. This strategy helped re-elect Prime Minister Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

In late 2014, Mr. Birnbaum was part of the team that provided the President of Azerbaijan the first ever “western-style” election-day exit surveys that were published in real time on the national news. This involved the training of over 1,000 local field personnel and the establishment of a data collection center in Baku. 2014 also saw Mr. Birnbaum working on national campaigns in the Republic of Moldova and Zanzibar. Early in 2015, he worked on the national campaign in Israel that saw Prime Minister Netanyahu re-elected to an unprecedented 4th term as well as having worked on the Presidential elections in Nigeria.

In 2016, Dr. Ben Carson asked George to come on board as his chief policy advisor for Israel and the Middle East. In addition to those duties, Mr. Birnbaum also co-chaired debate preparation for Dr. Carson as well as help develop communications for the campaign.

Early 2017 had Mr. Birnbaum working on the national elections in Serbia and Austria. Much of his focus during 2017 was spent working on the international elections for the new Director-General of UNESCO.

Mr. Birnbaum is often sought out for his insight and commentary regarding the international political situation and has appeared dozens of times on CNN, FOX, BBC as well having been interviewed over 100 times for radio and print media.

 

Ed BrookoverPartner

Before joining Avenue Strategies, Ed Brookover served as a Senior Advisor for President Trump’s campaign, managing the Trump delegate selection process and working with the team through the Republican National Convention. Earlier in the 2016 election cycle, Ed was the Senior Strategist and later, Campaign Manager, for the Dr. Ben Carson for President Campaign, which raised more money than any other candidate prior to his withdrawal. Carson was the only Republican candidate to lead President Trump in national surveys after the first primary debate in August 2015.

Since 2001, Brookover served as Chairman of the Political Practice for the public affairs firm, Greener and Hook. Political clients included Governor Pat McCrory (R-NC), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Clients in the firm’s public practice included the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Coors Corporation, the Credit Union National Association and a range of telecom companies. Prior to that, he served as VP of Political Affairs for Bonner & Associates and developed grassroots and public relations strategies for clients such as the Business RoundTable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Brookover previously served as the national director for campaigns for all three Republican national committees. His hands-on campaign experience in all 50 states led Roll Call to label him a “Svengali” for Republican Members of Congress and candidates. He also served as a campaign advisor abroad. He worked on the Prime Minister’s election in Greece and his guidance has been sought by conservative parties in England, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Taiwan.

Brookover has been married to his wife Barbara for 35 years. They reside in Virginia. Ed is also the current President of the National Association of Republican Campaign Professionals.

Lisa CoenPartner

Lisa Coen brings over 25 years of government affairs, public affairs, political, and legal experience to Avenue Strategies. She has deep corporate affairs experience in the private sector, particularly in health care, food security, and trade. She also maintains a strong commitment to public service. During the 2016 campaign cycle, she worked as Deputy Campaign Manager for the Carson for President Campaign. During the 2016 campaign cycle, she worked as Deputy Campaign Manager for the Dr. Ben Carson for President campaign.

Prior to that, while working in the Administration of President George W. Bush, Lisa built a strong understanding of the interagency process and relevant agencies and departments focused on domestic and global economics and trade. She served as White House National Security Council Director and managed the G-8 (now G-20) process, which prioritized global public health, energy security, education, and international trade issues. She also served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand) and as Deputy Assistant USTR for Congressional Affairs. In addition, she supported the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs on regional economic issues involving the Middle East and North Africa and policy issues relating to trade, sanctions, export controls, investment, and energy security. Early in her career, Lisa also worked for Senator John Chafee (R-RI), a Senate Finance Committee member, on trade issues.

In recent years, Lisa built a strong track record in the results-driven private sector. She has experience creating effective external affairs programs on substantive policy issues and has implemented impactful engagement strategies with many U.S. and global stakeholders.
Lisa worked previously as Vice President and Head of Global Public and Government affairs at Bayer CropScience on global food security issues. Before that, she led the Novartis Vaccines Government Affairs and Policy team, helping to foster improved product market access and global public health, and was Vice President of Public Affairs at Pfizer, working to improve biopharmaceutical product access for patients in developed and emerging markets.

Lisa received her law degree from George Washington University and her master’s degree in communications and public relations from Georgetown University, both with academic honors. She currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

John CpinPartner

John Cpin joined Avenue Strategies in 2017, bringing deep expertise in media relations, crisis management, public relations, public affairs and international relations. Prior to that, Cpin worked for various lobbying, government affairs and public relations firms in Washington D.C., including BGR Group (formerly known as Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, LLP), Westin Rinehart Group and Mercury Public Affairs. Duties included generating internal and confidential communication for high profile clients, and managing, building, protecting and growing client brands both domestically and internationally, as well as working with international diplomats and foreign governments.

John started his career as a television news reporter in Long Island. He also held positions in the political arena ranging from press secretary for Kansas Congresswoman Nancy Boyda’s congressional campaign to communications director for a gubernatorial campaign in Nebraska. While in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, he held positions as a communications/policy advisor for Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and deputy communications director for the Illinois State Board of Education.

A first-generation American and a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, John earned a Master’s degree in communications in New York, and grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey. He currently resides in Virginia.

Bud CumminsPartner

Bud Cummins joined Avenue Strategies in June 2017, focusing on compliance, regulation and business development issues. He also provides expert advice in crisis management and communication situations. He has a wealth of experience in broad categories of industries, including energy, construction, real estate and finance. Cummins also has an understanding of issues at the intersection of law, politics and business.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Cummins served as Arkansas State Chairman for the Trump/Pence presidential campaign and as a Trump whip at the Republican National Convention. Following the election, he served full-time on the Trump/Pence transition team in Washington. Prior to his work in the Trump/Pence campaign, he was the 1996 Republican candidate for Congress for the Second District in Arkansas, served as Chief Legal Counsel to Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and received a presidential appointment to serve as a U.S. Attorney in 2001.

Since 2007, Cummins has continuously maintained a private law practice focusing on select white-collar crime, compliance and internal investigation matters. From 2010-15, he also served as a Senior Advisor and General Counsel at the Circumference Group, a sector-focused investing and advisory team concentrating on the telecommunications, information technology, software, and outsourcing industries. While there, Cummins effectively leveraged his background to help launch a sector-focused hedge fund and lead analysis of private investment opportunities beyond the group’s core sectors.

Before that, Cummins provided crisis consulting to companies. For the North American subsidiary of an international biofuels company, he served as interim CEO. He also led an internal investigation into project cost overruns and negotiated with lenders for continued funding to complete the construction of a $70 million biofuel plant. Separately, for a $250 million revenue company in St. Louis, Cummins managed outside counsel to impose a new compliance regime and respond to numerous criminal and regulatory investigations. He also managed the defense of a portfolio of civil lawsuits.

Cummins graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1981 with a BSBA in Finance and Real Estate. He later received his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) where he was a member of the UALR Law Journal and served as an assistant editor. He was the recipient of several awards for scholastic achievement. After law school, Mr. Cummins served as clerk to the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas, and is a member of the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys, the Federalist Society, the Republican National Lawyer’s Association, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Bio-ventures Advisory Board.

Art EstopinanPartner

Art Estopinan joined Avenue Strategies in October 2017, bringing deep experience from 27 years on Capitol Hill as a Senior International and Public Affairs Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman Emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While working in Congress, Art served as a senior advisor on legislation relating to many governmental and foreign affairs priorities. He has a proven record of being able to advocate, support and advance legislative initiatives relating to pertinent issues, and built a broad network in the U.S. House and Senate, with the business community, and with many allies of the United States.

Estopinan effectively used his longtime knowledge of public policy and politics, including legislative, administrative, and lobbying processes, as well as a strong understanding of political parties and processes. Also, as the chief political strategist and coordinator of political events for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, he helped build a network of major business leaders raising an average of $1.5 million annually to support the Congresswoman and the designated political organizations.

Since retiring from his position in Congress, he has been able to support clients on foreign policy work and advance causes important to him and his family. For example, since December 2012, he led efforts to raise over $400,000 for Columbia University Medical Center’s TK2 Research Fund in New York. This fund will allow the pediatric neurological team to study this rare and fatal genetic muscular disorder impacting 50 recorded patients, including 10 children using the experimental medicines around the world. Estopinan’s son, Art, Jr., suffers from this disease.

Estopinan, fluent in English and Spanish, also has strong communications and public relations experience, having served as spokesperson for Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen with the media, and met directly with many constituents, visitors, and diplomats and at official functions. He has also developed many journal articles and co-hosted a weekly public affairs radio program in Florida. He and his family continue to reside in Florida and the Washington, D.C. area.

Vlada Galan

Vlada Galan is a political consultant with extensive experience in domestic and international political campaigns. She joined Avenue Strategies in 2017 to bring her campaign management and consulting experience, including international and domestic presidential, prime ministerial, senatorial, gubernatorial, parliamentary, and congressional elections, to the team.

Working with political candidates and international organizations, Vlada has managed client relationships in over 12 countries globally. Her recent experience spans five continents and includes campaign work in the United States, Western Europe, the Balkans, Asia, South America, and Africa.

Vlada began her political career in her home state of Georgia. In 2014, she led a successful National Republican Committee Victory Tour program that resulted in 10 victories in statewide offices. She then founded her own consulting firm, Quantum International Strategies, before joining Arthur Finkelstein and Associates, where she specialized in international consulting and strategy, as well as social media.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine prior to the fall of the USSR, Vlada graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in political science. Vlada enjoys lecturing at schools, universities, and conferences on international strategy and politics.

Don Green

Don Green joined Avenue Strategies when it launched in December 2016, as Vice President of Policy & Research. Don brings with him a wealth of policy, political, communications, and research talents honed over the 30 years that he has worked in and with the federal policymaking process.

For more than 25 years, Don worked on Capitol Hill – for two Senators and five House Members in senior legislative positions. He accumulated a wealth of in-depth policy knowledge on health care, tax, budget, trade, telecommunications, national security, and economic topics, among other issues. In addition, he became adept at seeking to drive a strategic message by interweaving both policy and political considerations.

Don’s career on Capitol Hill started in the mid-1980s. He worked for more than 20 years in the House and five years in the U.S. Senate for members from Maine, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida. After leaving the Senate in 2012, Don worked on corporate governance issues for a major trade association, a U.S. Senate campaign in Michigan, Dr. Ben Carson’s historic presidential campaign, and for Synovation Solutions, a consulting firm located in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Don was born and raised in suburban New Jersey. He graduated from Bates College in 1986 with a B.A. in history. He and his family reside in Fairfax County, Virginia, and his three children are currently attending undergraduate and graduate schools in Vermont, New York, and Virginia.

Ben LaRocco

Ben LaRocco has a proven track record over 15 years of effectively engaging all levels of government, working in the public sector and more recently on behalf of some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world. Ben is a big thinker with a record of advancing public policy agendas through specific and measurable accomplishments across a wide variety of issues and forums. By using his strengths of strategic thinking and decision making, he understands the way political and policy decisions affect an industry’s ability to deliver customer value. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Columbus Dispatch, and tweeted about by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Ben started his career in Columbus, Ohio, working first in grassroots campaigns and later in the Ohio state legislature and Governor’s office. When Ohio Congresswoman Jean Schmidt was elected to Congress, Ben moved to Washington, DC. He spent time on Capitol Hill and as the Political Director for House Republican Conference Chair Deborah Pryce.

Ben left the Hill to work as political and policy adviser for consumer products giant Procter & Gamble. Following his stint at Procter & Gamble, Ben opened and ran the DC office for AK Steel, a Fortune 500 automotive supplier. Ben then joined one of the fastest growing and most sophisticated public policy offices in the country at Amazon. There, he formed effective policymaker relationships and helped build Amazon’s corporate reputation with senior government officials.

Ben earned his master’s degree in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Toledo. Ben lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two daughters, and a cat named Oscar.

 

Ryan Newsome

Ryan Newsome joined Avenue Strategies at its launch in December 2016. He serves as the Chief Operations Officer.

Prior to joining Avenue Strategies, Newsome served as an Associate at Synovation Solutions. He also served as the Director of Operations to Dr. Ben Carson’s Presidential campaign in 2015-16. He was responsible for running the campaign’s day-to-day operation at headquarters, as well as helping maintain the campaign’s finances.

Newsome also has private sector experience, having worked as a Financial Professional for Prudential from 2013-2015. At Prudential, he helped working American families prepare for retirement and protect their assets, while also building a successful financial advisory practice.

Newsome got his start in politics at the age of 14, volunteering for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign. Since then, he has worked on a variety of races at the local and state level. He received an economics degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2013 and lives in Washington, D.C.

Russ WalkerPartner

Russ Walker is an accomplished political executive with over 20 years of experience leading statewide and national campaigns and organizations. He served as a senior campaign advisor to Dr. Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign and U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). In joining Avenue Strategies in 2017, he now provides general consulting, strategic planning and campaign management services to political non-profit clients and candidates.

Walker has advised some of the largest organizations on the American political right, including State Policy Network, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Republican Overseas and many others.He founded and served as the Executive Director of FreedomWorks for America (FWFA), one of the nation’s largest independent Super PACs. In 2012, he directed more than $23 million in independent expenditures and managed more than 70 full-time staff in 12 states. In addition, as FreedomWorks VP of Campaigns and Grassroots, he planned and implemented successful grassroots lobbying and policy campaigns in Washington D.C. and at the state level.

Walker played an instrumental role in the rise of the Tea Party movement and related taxpayer marches in Washington. He also led state campaigns to pass measures on pension reform, telecom deregulation, school choice, property rights, Internet protections, tax reform and other issues. In addition, he oversaw the successful qualification of nine statewide ballot measures and managed campaign expenditures in many more. He also led efforts in 2003, 2004 and 2009 to refer legislatively passed tax increases to Oregon’s ballot.

He is a graduate of Brigham Young University, served in the Army National Guard and currently sits on the Oregon advisory board for the US Commission on Civil Rights. Russ, his wife Lisa and their four children live in Oregon.

Bill WillinghamAssociate

Bill Willingham joined Avenue Strategies in 2017 as an Associate with a focus on international business and elections. He will primarily support clients in the Oil & Gas sectors and developing countries seeking to build relationships in the United States. Bill is an expert in the Oil & Gas industry and has brought with him a wealth of industry knowledge: of practices, trends and the players involved.

Willingham has a background of working in politics and election campaigns starting at the early age of 14. He has a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors from Michigan State University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami. Since law school and passing the Florida Bar, he has worked internationally for several EPC Contractors and two major Oil & Gas Operators in the area of Dispute Resolution. He is a licensed attorney with strong ties to the Middle East and is very knowledgeable in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) politics. He has lived and worked in Qatar, Bahrain, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Willingham recently returned to the United States after a decade of working in countries across the Middle East and South Asia. He now resides in Washington, D.C. He is an avid traveler and has visited many interesting, remote destinations such as Nepal, Turkmenistan, Cape Verde, and Seychelles.