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Street Talk: Another Haley Barbour Hunkers Down on K Street

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Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (above) may have left lobbying behind him, but his son, Reeves Barbour, just became vice president of BGR Group, the lobbying and public affairs shop that his father started back in 1991.

He’s also savvy to the other family business: politics. He worked on Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign in the pivotal spot of Dade County, Fla. And he traveled Mississippi with his father during the elder Barbour’s campaign for a second gubernatorial term, according to his BGR bio.

The junior Barbour’s lobbying career has gained little public attention. The lobbyist’s old boss at Reynolds American, John Fish, declined to say much about his former employee but called him “a great guy” who moved on because he had other opportunities.

Reeves Barbour is most certainly not the only second-generation lobbyist, nor is he the only K Streeter with a politician parent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has a son who made a foray into the influence business. Ex-Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) left Capitol Hill to go into business with each other and their lobbyist sons. Ex-Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) shares business with his son. Lobbyist Missy Edwards followed in the footsteps of her father, Macon, while father-son Bill and Tim Hecht practice at Hecht, Spencer & Associates.

“Politics is rife with examples of family following family, and lobbying just takes it to a new level,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying and campaign donations. “This is an industry that thrives, where success depends on the connections, the cordial relationships, the knowledge of who knows who.”

And sharing a last name and DNA with Gov. Barbour is a big deal.

“The importance of having that family connection to somebody who’s as big a mover and shaker as Haley Barbour is cannot be understated,” Krumholz added.

It comes with a downside, though.

“He’s working very hard to develop his own reputation and work plan separate from his last name,” said a source who knows Reeves Barbour. “He gets the benefit of people having a very high regard for his father, but the downside is he’s constantly asked, ‘What’s your dad going to do?’ He has to be very patient as sometimes the conversation takes a long road before it gets to where he wants it to go.”

Tim Locke, senior vice president at the Smith-Free Group, got to know Reeves Barbour when he was with Reynolds American.

“He’s a nice 30-something young man — stable, good instincts and good credibility — just kind of climbing the ladder like so many other people do,” Locke said. “He’s very capable in his own right, but it’s kind of like being a Senator’s son: You never escape the fact that your father’s in politics.”

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