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Washington DC’s 500 Most Influential People of 2024

May 2, 2024

Here’s our list of the experts and advocates, outside the government, who are playing big roles in Washington’s policy debates.

Our nation’s capital is full of people who aren’t elected but who shape the laws and policies that govern our nation and ultimately affect the course of history. Despite what the news says, the majority of those Washingtonians care deeply about this country and advocate on behalf of changes and ideas they believe will make the nation better. What follows is our list of 500 of those stalwarts.

The selection process isn’t easy, and we recognize that there are more than 500 people of influence in DC. Our list is determined by several factors. First, we look for those who have deep subject-matter expertise and significant understanding of how the nation’s capital works, with the goal of getting action. Second, we want people who understand the nuances and complexities of a particular issue area. And third, we focus on policy subjects we think are of special relevance right now to our slate of elected officials.

While we didn’t include those in elected office or Capitol Hill and administration staffers—the influencees, so to speak­—many of our choices have served in government. We believe they often possess insight into how to get an issue elevated. We suspect others will land in government in the future, given their expertise.

We’ve tried to make choices across the ideological spectrum and avoid big-name “hired guns” whose influence often derives more from their communication skills and network than from their expertise in a particular area. Some people or organizations may strike you as having a harmful effect. We’re not passing judgment on whether every person’s influence is for the greater good. We want to highlight those who wield it.

This year includes some new names, such as Jay Timmons at the National Association of Manufacturers (in the Business & Labor section) and Victoria Espinel at BSA, the Software Alliance (Tech & Telecom). And we’ve included people who have now been on the list for several years, such as Neal Katyal (Legal Intelligentsia), who just argued his 50th case before the Supreme Court, and Suzanne Clark (Business & Labor), who leads the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1912 in response to President Taft’s desire for a more central organization to keep in touch with businesses—a good example of how influence can be wielded and also called upon.

Ultimately, every one of the influencers shares a drive to understand a policy issue and propel it forward. Washington has always been a city of thinkers. We’re confident these are among the best brains in the city.

—Catherine Merrill
Washingtonian President and CEO

Originally Published in Washingtonian