Secretary of state accepts job with electric company
By R.A. DYER
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
AUSTIN -- Less than five hours after announcing he was stepping down as Texas secretary of state to seek "other opportunities," Phil Wilson has re-emerged as a vice president for Luminant, the wholesale subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings.
In a news release, the company that used to be TXU Corp. announced that Wilson will become its senior vice president of public affairs with responsibility for community relations, communications, and regulatory and government affairs. A spokeswoman said it was undetermined if Wilson will register as a lobbyist.
Luminant's release says Wilson will begin there on July 7. A news release issued by the secretary of state's office about four hours earlier said Wilson's last day working for the state will be July 6.
Lisa Singleton, a spokeswoman for Energy Future Holdings, said the company hired Wilson because of his ability to work with diverse groups of people. "We are hiring talented leaders ... regardless of background or political affiliation," she said.
But Andrew Wheat, an analyst with the Texans for Public Justice watchdog group, questioned whether it is appropriate for officials like Wilson to go directly from high-profile government posts to positions with businesses that seek government favors. He called for new legislation to prevent the practice.
"It's too bad -- this state has a revolving door [between big business and government) that is absolutely out of control," Wheat said. "It would be good to have a significant cooling-off period, if not an out-and-out prohibition."
Wilson is by no means the first high-profile state government official to go to work for companies with a notable presence at the Capitol.
In March 2007, Bruce Gibson, the longtime chief of staff for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, went directly from that office to become a legislative consultant for TXU. That move came just as TXU was fighting consumers over legislation that could have hampered its eventual buyout by private investment firms. TXU and its buyout partners spent about $6 million for lobbyists, $11 million for advertising and $200,000 on legislative gifts during the 2007 legislative session, according to Texans for Public Justice.
Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk -- himself a former secretary of state -- also lobbied during the 2007 session on behalf of companies pushing the multibillion dollar TXU deal.
Wilson's move to Energy Future Holdings comes against the backdrop of recent upheavals in the Texas electric market and in advance of another legislative session that sure to bring challenges from consumer groups.
David Campbell, chief executive officer of Luminant, said Wilson will make a great addition to the corporate team. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our leadership team and complements our current efforts in public affairs," Campbell said in a statement.
Wilson was appointed as the state's 106th secretary of state by Gov. Rick Perry last June. The post made him the state's top elections official, but the job-holder traditionally also serves as a key adviser to the governor and Texas' chief international protocol officer.
Wilson has served Perry in a number of capacities since 2002, including chairing the Governor's Competitiveness Council and on the Border Security Council. He has led economic development efforts as Perry's official designee on the $185 million Texas Enterprise Fund and on the $200 million Emerging Technology Fund.
"I have been honored to serve in this role for the people of Texas and am proud of the accomplishments we achieved during our time in office; overseeing the largest primary in Texas history, being part of bringing thousands of new jobs to Texas, and investing in our state's future employers and technologies," said Wilson, who took over the post from North Texas auto dealer Roger Williams.
Perry said Wilson served as a trusted confidant.
"He is a man of innovative thought and exceptional determination; attributes that have led him to success in both his professional and personal life," the governor said in a prepared statement.
There was no word from the governor's office on a possible replacement for Wilson, who's the fifth secretary of state during Perry's 7 1/2 years in office.
Staff writer John Moritz contributed to this report.