The Texas Policy Translator

Since Kansas native David Guenthner moved to Texas in 1989 to attend college at Trinity University in San Antonio, he’s stayed put. 

The Lone Star state’s charm has kept him in Austin since graduating 19 years ago, minus a short stint in fall 1994 when he interned at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

“The Leadership Institute is an invaluable resource for the conservative movement,” David said. “It has been a privilege to watch it grow from a small organization teaching college students how to run meetings and make Burma Shave signs into today’s Leadership Institute which is meeting the comprehensive training needs of a professional and broad-based conservative movement.”

David’s college education in political science and speech communications with a minor in economics began his journey.  The end result: merging policy research with strategic communications to inform government with recommendations and actions.

And ever since, David has worked to influence policy for Texans through some government relations or communications capacity.

He’s held many jobs, from writing and editing articles for Texas Risk Retention Association (1995 – 1996), to being the managing editor (Nov. 1996 – 2003) of the Lone Star Report, a political newsletter influential with Capitol insiders, to running his own firm meeting the communications needs for trade associations (2004), to being the government relations liaison (2004 – 2006) for the Texas Workforce Commission, a state agency with more than 3,000 employers and a budget of more than $1 billion.

In 2007, David went to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) first as its director of media and government relations and then as the senior communications director from 2011 to 2012.

Now, David is the senior director of public affairs at TPPF, an organization that promotes and defends liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with research and outreach.

“A common flaw in conservative thinking has been that we expend all our energy to get good candidates elected to office and then expect them to know what they’re doing from that point on,” David explained to the Leadership Institute. 

“But too often, the issues legislators are called upon to decide are ones where they have little experience and may not have even given much thought,” David continued. “Many think tanks have experts with deep philosophical grounding, but the Texas Public Policy Foundation has become a dominant force in Texas by combining our policy expertise with a public affairs program that gives our research legs with both policymakers and the public.”

Every month the TPPF Austin office, located just two blocks south of the Texas Capitol, hosts a “Policy Primer” lunch on the key issues facing the state.  TPPF also hand delivers the latest research to every legislator’s Capitol office twice a month.  The Foundation’s policy experts testify more than 100 times during a typical legislative session and conduct more than 1,000 substantive meetings each year with officeholders, their staffs, and senior state agency personnel.

For more information on TPPF, please visit

“There is no such thing as a typical work day,” David shared.  “It all depends on what is needed to translate our research into policy results.  That could mean developing a media plan around a particular piece of research, or facilitating meetings between our policy experts and key legislative offices, or pitching content to bloggers or editors, or coordinating strategy with allies across Texas and around the country.”


The Foundation has developed relationships with the top 45 conservative bloggers in the state, David shared, and has also worked to include Tea Party and conservative activists around the state through Monday night conference calls where they explain how best to influence  the legislative process.

“The Tea Party movement has led to a dramatic turnover in the Texas Legislature.  When the 83rd regular session convenes next January, at least 65 of the House’s 150 members will have one term of experience or less,” David said. “The Foundation has been proactive in educating these new lawmakers on the issues they will face so that their legislation and votes keep faith with their promises to their constituents.”

David has been recognized by many for his work in Texas politics.

In 1994, he received the Coby Pieper Award for Conservative Dedication, the highest honor bestowed by the Young Conservatives of Texas.  In 2009, he was one of the first recipients of the Austin American-Statesman’s Texas Social Media Awards.  And in September 2010, the charter school media project David managed received the State Policy Network’s SPNovation award.

“I first learned of the Leadership Institute in the fall of 1991 when I became president of the College Republicans chapter at Trinity University,” David remembers.  “LI was hosting a Youth Leadership School at the University of Houston, and several leaders from other chapters planned to attend.  It was a grueling weekend – made more so by our crash pad being an hour away from the campus – but very educational.”

After graduating, David came to the Leadership Institute in fall 1994 to intern and take several other trainings. 

“LI’s Youth Leadership School provided the base knowledge for understanding how to make a difference in politics.  LI’s Direct Mail School helped me understand when and why to break the rules of grammar and how to construct an effective fundraising appeal.  LI’s Television Workshop was put on for the benefit of our policy analysts and has helped their presentation skills immensely,” David shared.

Maybe you would like to attend a Youth Leadership School, like David.

LI hosts them year-around, but one’s coming up in Arlington, VA December 1 -2. Register here now.

To register for one of LI’s 41 types of political trainings, go here to see the schedule.

Please welcome David Guenthner as LI’s Graduate of the Week.


To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at