The city of New Orleans has a new chief lobbyist in Baton Rouge for the first time in more than a decade.
In a move of particular interest to political insiders, Paul Rainwater now represents the city’s interests in the capital for Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
Rainwater and his firm, Cornerstone Government Affairs, were the only bidders for the contract, which pays $25,000 per month.
Rodney Braxton had been the city’s lobbyist for the past 14 years; he received $20,000 per month.
Both Rainwater and Braxton are among several dozen professional lobbyists who represent multiple clients and spend most days at the Capitol when the Legislature is in session.
The city’s bid process required that Rainwater agree to work with minority subcontractors. His team includes Maxine Cormier and Ashley Mitchell Carter.
The city’s lobbyists try to advance the mayor’s legislative priorities and block those of opponents. The lobbyists also help organize the regular Wednesday private luncheon attended by the mayor and the New Orleans delegation in the Capitol basement when the Legislature is in session.
Rainwater, 57, is a veteran official in Democratic and Republican state administrations at both the state and local levels. He served as an interim director of the Sewerage & Water Board in New Orleans after a rainstorm in August 2017 unexpectedly flooded Mid-City and other neighborhoods, forced the ouster of the S&WB’s executive director and led to emergency repairs.
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Rainwater also was part of then-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s inner circle, serving as chief of staff at one point and commissioner of administration at another.
Rainwater also helped the current governor, John Bel Edwards, secure federal money from Washington after flooding in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes in 2016, and he served in senior positions for then-U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Originally from DeQuincy, Rainwater briefly played football at McNeese State University before graduating and going on to be elected to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. He served in the Army Reserves, with postings in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. After Hurricane Katrina, he moved to the Louisiana National Guard, retiring as a colonel in 2015 in a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion presided over by Jindal.
“Government has a very important role to play in people’s lives for those who need government,” Rainwater said in an interview, adding, “Mayor Cantrell has a bold strategy and a bold vision for the city.”
Cantrell held a public bid process to select a new lobbyist, as Mitch Landrieu, her predecessor, had done. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
“The mayor is satisfied with the selection of Cornerstone and looks forward to a productive session,” Beau Tidwell, her spokesman, said in an email.
Braxton, who was well liked by legislators, came under some criticism last year over what some viewed as a conflict of interest. His firm, Southern Strategies, was representing both the city and Caesars Entertainment, which was trying to win legislative approval to renew its state license to operate its New Orleans casino six years before it was due to expire.
The conflict was that the city would have had to sign off on Caesars’ plans for its casino and hotel once the state had granted the renewal. Braxton said then that no conflict existed because he represented the city while Liz Mangham, another senior executive in his firm, represented Caesars, and the two of them did not discuss the issue.
The beneficiaries jokingly call it the “Lobbyist Full Employment Act.”
In an interview, Braxton said he decided he didn’t want to continue as the city’s lobbyist.
“I’ve been doing it a long time,” he said. “It is not an easy representation. It’s a lot of work. It’s the only client I’ve had that literally required me to be at one point at every single committee in the Legislature.”