Christopherson Advocates, LLC: Advocating to Improve Minnesota

By H. K. Wilson

There is a feeling of reverence that comes with crossing the threshold of the statehouse, where the weight of history rests as heavily as the Capitol dome. There is excitement too, in the bustle of public officers, staffers and private citizens, all intent upon carrying out the state’s business.

Attorney and lobbyist Kirsten Christopherson Bailey brings her own dynamic energy to this environment, an energy fueled by her lifelong passion for client advocacy. This passion inspired her to open Christopherson Advocates, LLC in 2020, a firm focused on government relations, policy consulting and legislative advocacy. She and colleagues Michael Mollner and Andy Eilers work collaboratively to achieve bipartisan support for issues that advance the interests of nonprofit organizations and small businesses, giving a voice to underserved populations in Minnesota.

“Our work is gratifying because it helps make life better for all sorts of people,” Christopherson Bailey says. “Some laws need to be updated, and it’s our clients who help us understand what should be changed and why. Being part of that process to improve lives is unbelievably rewarding.”

Christopherson Bailey’s interest in public policy began after she completed her undergraduate education in communications, journalism and public relations at St. Thomas University and took a staff position at the Minnesota Senate. She went on to earn her law degree from University of Minnesota Law School and spent subsequent years working for firms in Chicago and Minnesota as a corporate transactional attorney, before joining two Minnesota law firms in government relations. While she no longer practices law, she maintains her licenses in Minnesota and Illinois, and applies her legal expertise to helping clients win legislative solutions to complex problems.

Her experience in legal and legislative environments, as well as her focus on relationship building, authentic communication and strategic thinking, make Christopherson Bailey an effective advocate and trusted leader in her field. She is a quick thinker and agile strategist, who is able to pivot quickly when new information comes to light.

“Additionally, finding the best way to communicate that plan to the client is important,” she says. “Clients like to receive information in different ways, and it is our job to adapt to them.”

THE CLIENTS WE WORK WITH ARE ALL WONDERFUL PEOPLE DOING AMAZING THINGS.

Advocating to Improve Minnesota

Never has that flexibility been more important than during the pandemic, when maintaining relationships and communicating with legislative members and their constituencies has required an immediate adoption of new methods.

“I really have to compliment my team,” Christopherson Bailey says. “In the beginning, it was just Michael and me. We did so much Zooming, texting and calling, and had a fantastic year, with so many bills that passed. We were able to get funding for a lot of important things, and we passed a big policy bill that was very important to both of us. The Capitol was still not fully open when Andy joined us last year, but he did an awesome job navigating the system to get bills where they needed to be. I’m proud of these two and blown away by the number of contacts they have.”

Although the pandemic disrupted routines at the Capitol, Christopherson Bailey and her team acted with purpose and achieved successes include the Fostering Higher Education Act passed in June 2021, which gives fosters the opportunity to attend any accredited Minnesota college or university using a blend of federal and state aid combined with a last-dollar-in scholarship. Also passed was a bill for an Office of the Foster Youth Ombudsperson, which will improve accountability in the foster system.

Christopherson Bailey comments on some of the elements that make her team so effective. “We take an ethics-first approach to lobbying and put members in a good position. One of the ways we are able to make friends and build relationships quickly is by providing good information. … There are lots of different kinds of lobbyists and things to lobby for, and we hold our heads high helping the clients we represent. People need a voice at the Capitol, and we’re proud of what we do. We love our job and have a great time doing it. We have wonderful clients, and they believe in us.”

As a former staffer herself, Christopherson Bailey recognizes the value that legislative insiders bring to government advocacy. Collectively, she and her team understand the inner workings of both legal and legislative processes and are adept at conveying key issues to busy decision makers with clarity and persuasion. Their diverse party affiliations enable them to read between party lines and see solutions others may not.

“I really appreciate Andy and Michael,” Christopherson Bailey says. “They were my most trusted colleagues at the Capitol and well-liked on both sides of the aisle. I love the story of how they met each other. They were both administrators on the Jobs committee, one from each chamber.”

Mollner began his career as a field director for the House DFL Caucus, and later moved to a staff position with the Minnesota House of Representatives, where his keen understanding of the legislative process and his natural ability to connect with people propelled his career. During his tenure at the Minnesota House of Representatives, Mollner worked as a committee administrator for the Jobs and Economic Development and Labor Committees.

Eilers joined the firm in 2021, following a tenure of 10 years at the Minnesota Senate, where from 2017-2021 he led the Jobs and Economic Development Committee as the committee administrator, working on budget and policy issues such as the COVID relief packages passed in the 2020-2021 sessions. Prior to his legislative career, Eilers worked on multiple political campaigns. Like Mollner, Eilers has earned the respect of colleagues across party lines.

Mollner offers insight into his approach to finding common ground in a splintered political environment. “I’ve always tried to get to know people personally, outside of politics. We talk food, sports, family — the little things away from the political world, where you really connect with people. Even if I disagree with them, we might find out we both like the Twins or have a favorite restaurant. We can always come back to those things.”

Andy Eilers
Michael Mollner

“That’s kind of how we hit it off.” Eilers says. “We met and started talking sports and other interests. It helped that the committee we ran was pretty bipartisan. We all wanted the same outcomes. Once you open up that communication and start talking to the other side, you can start building those relationships, and then you’re set. I’ve made many of relationships at the Capitol this way that I think will last a lifetime.”

According to Christopherson Bailey, mentoring others is also central to the firm’s values. “I have had so many mentors over my career, and I still seek out mentors to help me. I’ve talked to them about what classes to take and what law school to go to, whether to take a job or not, advice about starting a business and general life advice. I think it’s important to pay that forward. You can always make time to have coffee with somebody, or find a connection to help somebody along. This is an area where I feel my team does a fantastic job.”

 

Giving a bill a chance of passing is what we’re there for.”

As the 2023 Session begins, the air is electric with newly elected members taking office and people returning to a fully reopened Capitol. Likewise, Christopherson Advocates is taking on new clients and preparing fresh strategies for the new legislative environment.

“The things we are advocating for are so important,” Mollner says. “The funds we can deliver literally change people’s lives. We’re meeting at the Capitol a couple of times a week, and we’re involved with those bills from the start to sine die. It’s hard passing legislation. There are so many bills introduced in Minnesota and only a percentage that get a hearing. Giving a bill a chance of passing is what we’re there for.”

“The clients we work with are all wonderful people doing amazing things,” Eilers adds. “I was lucky in my previous positions to get to know a lot of executive directors and the people they serve, and now, to represent them in a different capacity.”

“Being able to go to the building physically is a big deal, and I’m thrilled that we are able to be there in person again,” Christopherson Bailey says. “Working with such a diverse group of clients has been a magnificent journey, and I’m excited to see where we grow next. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish and am grateful for having a strong team to help. We bring different personalities, insights and experiences to solving problems and changing people’s lives for the better.”

At a Glance

Christopherson Advocates, LLC
1400 Van Buren Street NE,
Ste. 200-219
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 217-2390
ChristophersonAdvocates.com

The Team

Services

Post Views: 94