The Revolving Door: Albert Hawkins Style

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Last year, Albert Hawkins, former commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission, retired from state service and started his own consulting firm.

His new job? Consulting for the state of Texas on its budget, focusing most likely on health and human services which takes up the largest chunk of the budget.

The Texas Tribune reports that Hawkins will be employed by Speaker Joe Straus and paid by Straus’ political committee.  Straus’ office did not return a call on what Hawkin’s consulting fee might be.

Hawkins’ eponymous consulting firm has hung its shingle in the same suite as Laine Strategy Group at 919 Congress Ave., which consists of husband and wife lobby team Dale and Cindy Laine.

I called over to Hawkins office. He shares the same suite, the same secretary with Laine Strategy Group but they keep separate shops apparently. Hawkins is not listed on Laine Strategy’s web site nor is he listed as a lobbyist.  Hawkins did not return my call for an interview.

Like Hawkins, Dale Laine worked for George W. Bush. Laine also serves as a board member on the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Some Laine Strategy clients include Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (a trade group for Big Insurance), a dental franchise group Kool Smiles that serves children on CHIP and Medicaid and Telos Consulting, owned by Brent Darden the owner of a luxury health club in Dallas.

This begs the question: Straus is co-chair of the LBB, an agency filled with budget analysts. So why does a state official need to pay a private consultant (who shares an office with a lobby group) with money from his political committee (partially funded by lobbyists)?

It just doesn’t pass the smell test, folks.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.