Why He Matters
As a top Hill aide with more than 20 years of experience, Turton will bring connections and context to his new job in the Obama administration. He worked as a top aide to former Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Miss.) for 20 years before leaving the Hill for a lobbying firm. He returned in 2006 as a key staffer to House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Turton will serve as President Barack Obama’s point man for guiding his legislative agenda through the House. Though he was officially appointed to the job in January 2009, Turton has already started working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to convince key players to support the president’s $800 billion economic stimulus package.
Path to Power
Turton was born in Bangor, Maine, but grew up mostly in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He moved back to Connecticut as a sophomore to attend high school. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a degree in government.
After college, Turton landed a job with then House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Miss.). He stayed with Gephardt for more than 20 years, moving from a receptionist to a key player. Turton credited his rise in part to the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, which caused “major shake-ups” that opened up key positions to fresh blood.(1)
As Gephardt’s top floor staffer, Turton was a liaison between the House Democratic and Republican leadership. He also coordinated floor procedure and scheduling decisions.(2)
Turton helped run three Democratic Presidential conventions in 1992, 1996 and 2000, working in the cloak room and helping with convention ticket distribution for the majority leader.(3)
Turton left Capitol Hill in 2003 to work with the powerful lobbying company Timmons & Co. He worked with 41 clients, including many corporate ones like the American Council of Life Insurers, Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Chevron, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Rifle Association and Unocal Corp, according to Roll Call.(4)
In 2006, Turton returned to Congress to work for Slaughter as majority staff director for the House Rules panel, which decides how long debate will last and who can speak when on the House floor. He described his role to the National Journal as determining “who’s allowed to use what legislative tools.”(5)
The move surprised many inside the Beltway, particularly because Slaughter had previously used harsh words to describe lobbyists. "Watching Washington be taken over by these little sleaze merchants is not only expensive and repulsive — it is destroying America,” she said on the House floor in 2005.(4)
But Slaughter later said she had no problems hiring Turton. “I like to say I saved him from lobbying," she told Roll Call. Turton has also said that his private sector experience is an asset to Slaughter. “I think it's very beneficial for members to have advice from senior staff that have different professional experiences,” Turton told Roll Call.(6)
Obama named the Hill veteran a deputy director of Legislative Affairs for the House in January 2008.
With more than two decades of Washington experience, Turton has honed his knowledge of House procedure. He is also one of the best connected former Hill staffers with experience at the highest levels of Congress and on K Street.
Turton is working with Obama to pass the $800 billion stimulus package as the president’s first major legislative objective.(7)
Reaching Across the Aisle
As Slaughter’s staffer, Turton had to navigate a committee with only four minority members to the nine members of the majority. That taught Turton the importance of listening to his Republican colleagues. “It’s helpful, if not a necessity, to have open lines of communication with the minority,” he told the National Journal. “We need each other.”(5)
Turton’s work with Gephardt has tied him to a slew of prominent Democrats and Obama advisers like campaign manager David Plouffe, and spokesman Bill Burton. He is also connected to former Clinton aides like ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala.(2)
Turton also has ties to top Hill staffers like Matt Gelman, who answered phones with Turton. Now Gelman is working for House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.). Bernie Raimo, who is chief counsel to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sean Kennedy, who is chief of staff to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Miss.) were also Gephardt staffers.(8)
Turton has advised young Hill staffers to reach out to top Hill advisers no matter their party. He includes among his mentors Marti Thomas, Republican Jay Pierson and Martha Morrison.(2)
Turton is a solid Democratic giver, and has personally donated more than $100,000 to Democratic candidates and PACs. When he was a lobbyist, he encouraged fellow K Streeters to do the same.
He donated $1,000 to both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama in January 2008.(9)
Hocking, Dree, “Making Coffee, Copies Pays Off, Hill vets Say,” Roll Call, 2005
Timmons and Co. Web site
Timmons and Co. Web site
Crabtree, Susan, “Days before Nov. election, three Dem aides departed,” The Hill, Jan. 25, 2007
Stone, Peter, “House Rules Committee,” National Journal, June 23, 2007
Ackley, Kate, “Trip Back to Hill Often Costly; Lobbyists Shed Salary For Chance to Work in Democratic Majority,” Roll Call, April 18, 2007
Brown, Carrie Budoff, “Obama to Pelosi: Stimulus ‘can’t wait,’" Politico, Jan. 5, 2009
O’Connor, Partrick, “Six degrees of ... Dick Gephardt?,” Politico, July 24, 2008
Campaign Money Web site
Mr. Turton ended his thirteen years of service to the Democratic Leader, Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO) as Senior Floor Assistant, after working the House Floor for 10 years. As Senior Floor Assistant, Mr. Turton was a liaison between the Democratic leadership and the GOP leadership, and was Gephardt's representative on the House floor responsible for making hourly floor procedure and legislative scheduling decisions. Mr. Turton helped coordinate Democratic Party legislative strategy, advised Members on the day-to-day activity on the House floor, and recommended and nominated Democrats to all bill conferences. He also helped create and direct delivery of the Democratic message on short and long-term issues and served as the Democratic parliamentarian on the House floor.
Mr. Turton has volunteered at several Democratic National Conventions. In 1996 and 2000, he managed the House of Representatives' Democratic Cloak Room at the Democratic National Conventions in Chicago and Los Angeles and in 1992, at the New York convention, he managed convention ticket distribution procedures for the House Majority Leader.
Mr. Turton spent much of his childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia and returned to the United States his sophomore year in high school to attend Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut and went on to graduate from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Government. He was born in Bangor, Maine.