For three decades, Mark McKinnon has been solving complex strategic challenges for causes, companies and candidates, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Ann Richards and Bono.
He helped engineer five winning presidential primary and general-election campaigns, and in recent years has become a leading reformer, cofounding, cochairing and working with organizations like No Labels, Mayday, CounterPAC, Take Back Our Republic and the Freedom to Marry Campaign.
According to Broadcasting and Cable magazine, McKinnon is one of “a handful of players behind every big decision, consensus or roadblock in Washington . . . putting a unique, sometimes hidden stamp on the outcome of today’s debates.” Politics Daily writes: “He’s known for his originality in a field typified by copycats, a mellow personality in a world populated with high-strung brutes and ecumenical urges in a profession dominated by its unadulterated partisans.”
For 20 years McKinnon worked at Public Strategies, Inc., where he was an owner and served as vice chair. In 2010 Public Strategies merged with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where McKinnon served as global vice chair. He remains an advisor to the firm. An award-winning media producer and communications strategist, McKinnon has been awarded more than 30 Pollie and Telly awards, honoring the nation’s best political and public affairs advertising.
“McKinnon is evidence that principled centrism is not an oxymoron,” wrote John Avalon in a Daily Beast column about the 25 Best Centrist Pundits. “McKinnon piloted John McCain’s 2008 primary campaign to victory. But he announced in advance that if Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, he would ride off into the sunset rather than participate in the negative attacks he knew would be required. This is unheard of in the world of modern politics, where partisanship trumps principle as a matter of course.”
Former President George W. Bush says of McKinnon, “I was really impressed by Mark’s creativity, and I was particularly impressed by his honesty.” Senator John McCain, in his typical straight-talk fashion, remarks, “He’s almost a genius.” And President Barack Obama calls McKinnon “a class act.”
President Bush appointed McKinnon to serve as a governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He serves on the board of the Austin Film Society, and he lectures frequently at universities, including the JFK School of Government at Harvard University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
McKinnon has been a columnist for The Daily Beast and the Daily Telegraph (U.K.) and a consultant to the HBO television series The Newsroom.
McKinnon attended the University of Texas at Austin and served as editor of the award-winning university newspaper, The Daily Texan. He spent several years in Nashville working as a songwriter with Kris Kristofferson (and was wildly unsuccessful). McKinnon also is a two-time Ironman finisher. His quality of life is exceptionally enhanced by the enduring love and patience of his wife, Annie (whom he met before he could drive), and his daughters, Brita and Kendall, and grandson, Sawyer.