History of WGRG
The Washington Government Relations Group (WGRG) is a non-partisan, independent, volunteer association that was founded to enrich the careers and leadership abilities of African-American government relations professionals. Members represent corporations, financial institutions, law firms, trade associations and non-profit organizations on a broad range of policy areas in state, federal, and international arenas. The organization aims to foster meaningful dialogue between its members and pertinent, senior-level policymakers to facilitate superior public policy solutions.
In 1971, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was organized to help strengthen African-American Members of Congress efforts in addressing the public policy concerns of African-Americans. Following the elections of 1968, the CBC grew from six to 13 members. That expansion helped to foster growth among African-Americans in other areas, most notably at the congressional staff level and also in the private sector. As many of these CBC staffers gained substantive and procedural experience from working “On the Hill,” they began to take advantage of opportunities in the private sector as lobbyists. Consequently, as the CBC grew, so did the number of African-American lobbyists and individuals employed in the government relations profession. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, organizations were established to create continuity for African-Americans in the legislative arena at both the staff level as well as the professional level.
In 1981, a group of African-American lobbyists joined to create an entity to cater to individuals in their profession. That group included Walter Threadgill (Storer Broadcasting), Rufus McKinney (Southern California Gas), Thomas Hart (Westinghouse), Bob Bates (Mobil; former president of the American Association of Blacks in Energy), and Stacy Mobley (DuPont), who helped spearhead “networking sessions.” The group met informally, with the simple intention of creating a “clearinghouse” for networking opportunities. If you were an African-American lobbyist, you were considered part of the “group,” which was not organized under any particular name at the time. With about 20 “regulars,” those in the group primarily represented trade associations and corporations. These African-American government relations professionals shared similar concerns, as most of them were subject to comparable workplace and career advancement challenges.
The group worked to educate Members of Congress and their staff, particularly CBC members, on a variety of public policy issues. With only about 30 African-American Senate staffers and 50 African-American House staffers on Capitol Hill, the group felt that networking with Members of Congress and their staff was essential to their individual and collective success.
In the mid-80’s, the group adopted a formal name, the “Second Wednesday Group,” as they initially met on the second Wednesday of each month. Under the leadership of Mobley, the organization continued its growth and activity with members including Yvonne McIntyre (Detroit Edison), Lynn Holmes (AT&T), Stacey Mobley (DuPont), Celeste Boykins (DuPont), Carla Dancy (EDS), Medgar Evers, Jr. (Air Conditioners and Handlers Union), Janice Griffin (Prudential), Angela Riemer (Prudential), David E. Warr (Bristol-Myers Squibb), John Chambers (Akin Gump), Carlton Stockton (Carlton Stockton and Associates), Sheryl Washington (UPS), Theresa Hooper (3M), Luddy Hayden (Chevron), Greg Washington (Texaco), and Valerie Pinson (Cable Television Association).
In 1989, the Second Wednesday Group elected Janice Griffin and Carla Dancy to serve as co-chairs of the organization.
After a period of dormancy, in the late 90’s, under the leadership of David E. Warr, formerly of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and the late John Chambers, formerly of Arent, Fox, Kitner, Plotkin and Kahn, the group reorganized and altered its focus from “social networking” to more of a “professional networking” organization. Acknowledging the changing face of politics in our nation’s capital, several members agreed it was time to establish a more formal structure to ensure longevity and continued growth and progress. Thus, in February 1997, the Second Wednesday Group reorganized under its new and present identity. For the first time, the organization elected officers and a board of directors and John Chambers served as WGRG’s first President.
In 1998, Angela Walker Reimer, currently with Pfizer, was elected WGRG’s President. Under Walker Reimer’s leadership from 1999 to 2000, WGRG focused on connecting with elected officials. The organization recommitted to inviting Members of Congress to speak at monthly breakfast and lunch events. Walker Reimer’s Board invited officials from both sides of the aisle to address the non-partisan group. WGRG compiled the first formal list of Washington lobbyists to statistically track African-American growth in the lobbying industry. WGRG maintained a membership of nearly 30 government relations professionals during this period.
From 2000-2002, Richard Mattox (Mattox Woolfolk) served as President. Mattox continued the successful programs and history of Walker Reimer, which helped to substantially increase WGRG’s membership. During his administration, WGRG’s membership more than doubled to nearly 50 members, representing the largest membership increase in the organization’s history. He set the stage for adoption of formal by-laws before the end of his tenure.
In 2002, Stephan Bell of Bell Consulting Group was elected President for the 2003-2004 cycle. Bell focused on creating a board of directors that borrowed from DC’s most talented African-American lobbyists. He targeted a diverse group of experienced lobbyists to lead the organization. The organization shared its activities with the media to further increase visibility. WGRG pursued high-profile elected officials under Bell’s leadership including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. WGRG adopted formal by-laws, hosted “career panels” for aspiring lobbyists, hosted a “Welcome to Congress” reception for freshmen Members of Congress, hosted numerous “Meet and Greet” events for African-American Capitol Hill staff, and created “Issue Clusters” comprised of WGRG members with expertise in substantive areas including Civil Rights, Energy and Environment, Financial Services and Taxes, Health, International Affairs and Trade, Public Sector, Telecommunications and Transportation. WGRG witnessed record membership numbers under Bell’s leadership, surpassing 100 members for the first time in the organization’s history.
In 2004, Robert G. Drummer of Drummer & Associates, began his two-year term from 2005-2006 with a platform emphasizing community service, as epitomized in the organization’s “adoption” of Horton’s Kids, a non-profit organization that provides academic and cultural support for socio-economically disadvantaged youth, as the primary beneficiary of our charitable outreach. Drummer’s agenda focused on “continuing and perpetuating the legacy” of African-American government relations professionals through the John Chambers Memorial Golf Tournament, the Terri Grier Memorial Fellowship Program, the WGRG Foundation, and the 25th Anniversary Gala, which celebrated the organization’s first quarter-century achievements.
Yvonne McIntyre, who had been the organization’s secretary for nearly five years and Vice President for over a year, was elected President in 2006. Two-thousand seven marked the year of the woman with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California being elected Speaker of the House. McIntyre began her tenure that year with WGRG hosting Lorraine Miller, Clerk of the House, as the featured speaker for the January general membership meeting. During her presidency, traditional and special programs such as breakfast speaker events, the New Congressional Members’ Reception and the John Chambers Memorial Golf Tournament were held. She established relationships with other minority government relations organizations including the Hispanic Lobbyist Association and the H Street Project (the Asian/Pacific American Lobbyists Association), with joint events held during each session of Congress. As 2008 marked an exciting Presidential election year, WGRG held events featuring representatives from the Barack Obama and John McCain campaign teams, the congressional campaign committees and GoPAC. The final focus of McIntyre’s tenure was finalizing WGRG’s tax exempt status as a 501(c)(6), which was formally granted by the IRS in 2008.
Under the leadership of Marcus Sebastian Mason, WGRG maintained a roster of more than 200 government relations and public affairs professionals. The organization continued to host quarterly meetings with Congressional and Administration officials and scheduled networking and professional development opportunities through Table Talk and its Policy Roundtable Series with Members of Congress. Recognizing a void in honoring fellow peers and Members of Congress who advance diversity, Mason created the Tin Cup Awards in 2010. The Tin Cup Awards Dinner has been an extraordinary success and hosted over the years by the Embassy of Finland, House of Sweden, Embassy of France, Embassy of Canada and The Newseum.