Ex-House speaker forms consulting firm, lands Gilbert as first client

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Michigan speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, jokes with reporters om the House Chambers recently, telling them they're wasting their time covering the House today, and asking "What are they doing over on the other (Senate) side?" on November 27, 2018.

A newly formed consulting firm led by Michigan’s former House speaker Tom Leonard has announced Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert as its first client.

The DeWitt Republican's public policy and strategy firm, called MiStrategies LLC, will advise Gilbert's Quicken Loans on policy issues aimed at improving Michigan’s high auto insurance rates, transportation challenges and talent attraction, Leonard said Monday.

“Certainly, we’ve got a shared passion,” Leonard said of Gilbert. “We both have a passion for this state, a love for Detroit.”

Leonard will not be lobbying for Gilbert, who already has his own legislative team, but will provide “strategic advice” and help “to build coalitions” on priority issues, such as Michigan's highest-in-the-nation auto insurance rates.

“I can think of few things that would be more important that we could fix than auto insurance,” Leonard said. 

Legislators have long sought to curb auto insurance costs, along with Gilbert and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Gilbert has said he’ll take the issue to the ballot if lawmakers don’t act this year on the problem.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has long opposed changes to the lifetime medical coverage guaranteed under current law.

In 2012, Patterson was covered by worker's compensation when he suffered significant injuries in an auto accident, but the experience gave him insight into the cost of catastrophic injuries. 

Leonard left the Legislature at the end of 2018, after a hectic lame-duck session in which lawmakers were unable to muster support for a last-minute attempt at auto insurance reform.

Leonard’s successor, GOP Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering, has identified auto insurance reform has formed a committee dedicated solely to auto insurance reform.

Leonard, who lost his 2018 bid for attorney general to Dana Nessel, submitted his paperwork to the state to form MiStrategies LLC mid-way through January, roughly two weeks after Chatfield took over as House speaker.

Leonard said he began having conversations with Gilbert about a potential collaboration the first week of January.

Quicken Loans leadership had worked closely with Leonard as speaker and “came to know him as a skilled strategist and a person of integrity and conviction,” said Jared Fleisher, vice president of governmental affairs at Quicken Loans.

“For those reasons, Tom is respected on both sides of the aisle and has a record of significant bipartisan achievements important to the State of Michigan,” Fleisher said in a statement. “We are truly excited to work with Tom to hone our strategy, and redouble our efforts, as we seek to help bring about positive changes in auto insurance, talent development, and on issues like transit and mobility that are so important to our economic future. He’s ready to get to work, and so are we.” 

Leonard has one other client so far in the criminal justice field, though he declined to identify the client at this time. His firm will work with organizations “committed to making Michigan a ‘top-10’ state," a purpose Leonard says he has the legislative experience to pursue.

“I’m uniquely qualified because I’m one of the few that has actually been inside that caucus room,” Leonard said. “I know what’s on the mind of these legislators.”


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