Cape native leaves Bush team to lobby

Friday, March 11, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The life of a political strategist is transitory with constant movement from one assignment to the next. After several years of being at the forefront of national politics in important roles, though often behind-the-scenes, Cape Girardeau native Jack Oliver is ready for some stability.

Oliver was recently hired to help launch St. Louis-based Bryan Cave Strategies, the new political lobbying division of Missouri's largest law firm. In a phone interview from his office in Washington, D.C., Oliver, 36, said he's excited about trying something new and intends to stay off the campaign trail in the foreseeable future.

"This is a long-term relationship with Bryan Cave. I'm focused on working with them to build this business," Oliver said. "But you never know with politics."

The son of prominent Cape Girardeau lawyer John Oliver, he grew up in Southeast Missouri and St. Louis.

After working for Missouri Republican heavyweights such as John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth and Jim Talent, Oliver served as national finance director for George W. Bush's successful 2000 presidential bid. In that role, Oliver helped Bush shatter previous presidential fund-raising records.

Oliver became deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the national party from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined the president's campaign team and helped him win re-election last fall.

Oliver downplays his role.

"It never has been about me. It always has been about the president," Oliver said. "It was a great experience and true honor."

Missouri Republican Party spokesman John Hancock said Oliver is esteemed in state GOP circles.

"He is somebody who played a very effective role for the president," Hancock said. "A lot of us obviously are very delighted he's coming back home."

Balancing Oliver's Republican credentials, his partner in the new lobbying venture is Steve Elmendorf, a longtime aide to former congressional representative Dick Gephardt, a St. Louis Democrat and powerhouse in national politics.

"We've got two people who understand political campaigning and the variety of different aspects that go into campaigning," Oliver said.

Although the firm is still putting together a client list, Oliver said its focus will be on representing Missouri interests in the halls of power.

Oliver holds a political science degree from Vanderbilt University and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He and his wife, Rachel, have one daughter, Kate.

While he holds political aspirations, Oliver was mum concerning a bid for public office.

"We'll have to wait and see what the future holds," Oliver said. "That is a passion that continues to burn in my heart."

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