EDINBURG, December 19 - State Rep. Aaron Peña has announced he will go into lobbying and communications when he retires next month.
The Edinburg Republican is setting up his own lobby firm, to be called Rubicon Strategies and Governmental Affairs. He is also joining Crosswind Media & Public Relations, which handles public relations and media strategies for governmental and corporate clients.
In addition, Peña will provide political analysis during the legislative session for YNN, the 24-hour TV news channel in Austin, and for various radio stations around Texas. He will also continue his work as a HuffPost Live columnist.
Peña talked about his career change with the Guardian.
“I am pleased to be joining Crosswind Media & Public Relations. It is one of the largest PR firms in Texas, with many high-profile governmental and corporate clients,” Peña said. “We are going to do a wide variety of work but I am going to try to branch out into Hispanic engagement, outreach and communication.”
Crosswind Media & Public Relations is headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and New York. Peña said he will be based in Crosswind’s office in the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin.
The president of Crosswind Communications is Thomas Graham, a former executive vice president of communication and image at BBVA USA. He is a member of the National Investor Relations Institute and the Public Relations Society of America. In a news release, Graham welcomed Peña to the Crosswind team.
“Rep. Peña is one of the most progressive users of social media. Among the first to adopt and effectively use Facebook and Twitter in the Texas Legislature, he has earned a reputation as an accessible and engaged political influencer, which will add to the value we bring to our clients,” said Graham.
“Change is coming to Texas. And leaders in business, politics and public policy should pay attention. The recent election demonstrated very clearly that Hispanics are playing a more influential role in political and public policy decisions. Aaron will provide invaluable counsel to organizations seeking to best understand and address the issues facing Texas as we continue to grow.”
Graham said Peña will join Crosswind as a senior counselor and support clients on Hispanic, social media and legislative outreach initiatives.
“Understanding your customers or your constituents, that is one of the first imperatives in communications. As your customers change, you should be prepared to change as well. That is why I am excited to be joining Crosswind. They are helping their clients reach out to market segments currently being missed in Texas, and I look forward to engaging them, particularly across social media channels,” Peña said, in the news release.
The vice president of Crosswind Communications is Alexis DeLee, who has served as communications director for former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick and the Republican Party of Texas.
In a news release, Crosswind said it “directs communication strategies that strengthen relationships, build brand awareness and create shareholder and stakeholder value for leading clients in energy, financial services, higher education, technology, public advocacy and non-profit sectors.” The news release said Crosswind’s “expertise in media strategy, public affairs, corporate reputation, employee engagement and brand enrichment is focused on the most important commodity in today’s marketplace: Trust.”
Peña said he cannot start working for his own lobby firm until his successor in the Texas House, state Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is sworn into office. That will happen on the first day of the session, January 8, 2013. Peña said at that point he walk over from the state Capitol to the Ethics Commission office and file his paperwork to become a lobbyist.
“I already have four or five prospective clients that want me to work on some issues. Most of them are not from the Valley. A few are. I will divide my time between Austin and the Valley. I want to do some public advocacy work,” Peña said.
In addition, Peña said he is committed to help bring a new UT university and medical school to South Texas. He said he would be doing this in a voluntary capacity, by encouraging his former colleagues in the Texas House to support legislation sponsored by the Valley’s legislative delegation.
“Establishing a new university, with a school of medicine, it does not get any bigger than this. It is the largest effort the political leadership in the Valley collectively could perform,” Peña said. “Once the new university is established, we can access the Permanent University Funds, which will lead, eventually, Tier One status. We will be on par with UT-Austin and Texas A&M in College Station. It is that big.”
The new UT University would combine UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the Regional Academic Health Center. To get it off the ground, the UT system and the Valley legislative delegation needs to secure the support of two thirds of the members in the Texas House and Senate.
Peña said this will not be easy, which is why he wants to help. “There will be some politics we will have to deal with north of the Nueces. Anytime you have a major legislative effort, there are efforts to divide and conquer, attempts to inflame our passions, to create division and eventually kill the legislation,” he said.
Given that there will be no fiscal note attached to the legislation establishing a new university in the Valley, the Guardian asked Peña why any lawmaker from outside the Valley would the oppose legislation. “Everything has opposition, Jesus Christ had opposition. Gandhi had opposition,” he said.
More pressing, Peña said, is the need for unity on the new university-medical school issue, both publicly and privately, among Valley communities and their leaders.
“Our first challenge must be to put our differences aside here in the Valley. My sense is that this project has not gelled yet. Although there are public statements of support, we have not come fully together on the issue and we have to be. The moment the legislation hits the floor, the opposition will look for any cracks in our support as a reason to deny it. We need total unity,” Peña said.
This is the first in a two-part series. In the second part, Rep. Peña discusses border security in the Rio Grande Valley.