John Chwat currently serves as President of the government relations firm of The Chwat Group.
It is his role to aggressively and successfully represent the interests of his clients on Capitol Hill.
Early & Personal Life
John grew up around politics. His late father served in the US State Department and, after returning from World War II, became a US diplomat with a post in Sweden. John packed his things and moved with his family to a diplomatic area near the US Embassy in Sweden. By the late 1950s, John had settled in and was attending a British school for diplomatic children. In this setting, John had the unique opportunity of visiting with other embassy children from around the world. He remains close with some of these school acquaintances from Turkey, Israel, and other countries.
After another diplomatic assignment in Rome, Italy, John’s family moved to New York. John attended Forest Hills High School, the Pratt Institute, and Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. At University, John was president of Pi Gamma Mu, the national social studies honor society, president of the Young Republicans, and an active student in a variety of organizations and academic pursuits. John was also voted president of his student body and served on the student council all throughout his tenure at the college. He led the council in policy decisions with the Board of Trustees and the officers of the University.
It was around this time that John was featured on NBC with other student body presidents on a panel program in 1970 discussing the demonstrations against War in Vietnam. The late Congressman Seymour Halpern (R-NY) watched the panel and was impressed by John’s defense of the Vietnam War and students’ right to go to class without obstruction. Congressman Halpern reached out to John, invited him to his office, and asked him to move to Washington, DC and become an intern. John agreed, and the day after he graduation, John moved to Washington to accept the paying research internship and pursue his masters in American Government at Georgetown University.
This was the start of John’s very long and successful career as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.
After his internship, John became a legislative assistant, where he learned about Congress and served all of the legislative staff for Congressman Halpern as he served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Banking Committee. John drafted legislation and wrote policy positions, including a Hobby Protection Act, which eventually became law, and a bill on China-US study which actually preceded his China visits and lectures by 25 years!
During this period, John networked with the staffs on Capitol Hill and learned the details of Congressional procedure. After Congressman Halpern’s retirement, John was hired by the late Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY) to work in the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee assisting the Committee senior staffs with legislation on unemployment compensation, pensions, labor law and other issues. John was able to see many famous senators during his tenure in the Committee and learn a great deal about how the Senate operates. Inspired by the work he was doing in Congress, John decided to continue that during the day and pursue a law degree at night. He was accepted at American University Law School and John began what was to become an extraordinarily busy part of his career.
Law School & Congressional Research
The combination of law school and a full-time job wasn’t easy but John remained steadfastly motivated. He learned the ins and outs of the legal system every weekday from 5 until 11pm each night, with a class on Saturday and short studying sessions whenever he could find the time. Eventually, John switched jobs and left the Congress to work in the Congressional Affairs section of the Animal and Plant Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture. This job gave John more time to devote to his law studies, but it also opened his eyes to the complicated relationships between Congress, government, and agribusiness and farm interests.
Soon after, Mr. Chwat jumped at the opportunity to work as a researcher for Col. John Collins (USA-Ret), who was the senior specialist in National Defense at the Library. Mr. Chwat began as the Colonel’s top aid for all of his projects with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, other Committees of Congress, and the books he was writing on Soviet Military strategy. John undertook classified and unclassified military and foreign policy research for the Col during his tenure at the Library. He had access to “the stacks,” a wonderland of available research, and John developed a reputation for researching ANY inquiry from Congress and finding the answer in open sources (books, magazines, articles). He was a bona fide search engine before the internet even existed.
Chief of Staff & Lobbying
John helped the Col. publish many Congressional Research Service documents and studies, and even traveled to the Pentagon to do research for Congressional military documents. During his tenure at the Library of Congress, John’s work for the Col. came to the attention of Rep. John Breckinridge (D-KY), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who was working with the the Col. on Soviet strategy. John spent two years working for the Congressman and then became Chief of Staff and concentrated on agriculture and military affairs to compliment his national defense committee assignments.
The importance of being selected the Chief of Staff to this Member of Congress cannot be understated in John’s career as a lobbyist. It was not only the top staff position for a Congressional office, but it also prepared Mr. Chwat for other future lobbying activities. Mr. Chwat became an expert in tobacco growing and farm issues, and presented the Congressman’s legislative and policy positions to other leaders in Agriculture in the Senate Committee as well as KY farm and corporate interests. John focused specifically on horse breeding and horse racing issues, and he coordinated the “Horse Census Act,” a bill that eventually became law and assisted in preventing future horse diseases.
After the Congressman lost the primary, Representative Bill Boner (D-TN) hired Mr. Chwat as his chief of staff and John was soon on the defense appropriations subcommittee, a key funding subcommittee in charge of the entire Pentagon budget. Mr. Chwat organized Rep. Boner’s office and served him for over two years. In 1980, Mr. Chwat left his office for the private sector to work with COMSAT Corp. as their lobbyist in Congress.
Over the last 35+ years, Mr. Chwat has become a well-respected and prominent presence on Capitol Hill. He currently serves as President of the government relations firm of The Chwat Group, where he aggressively and successfully represents the interests of a large base of clients.