Mark McKinnon is a Republican political advisor in the United States, the President of Maverick Media, and the Vice-Chairman of Public Strategies, Inc., a business advisory firm located in Austin, Texas. He has worked for causes, companies and candidates, including former President George W. Bush, 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, late former Governor Ann Richards, Congressman Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong and Bono.
Mark McKinnon began his career as a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, working along-side country music's legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson. He returned to Texas to study at The University of Texas at Austin and was the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Texan. While working for The Daily Texan he was jailed briefly on a First Amendment issue. McKinnon’s first political campaign experience was volunteering for Senator Lloyd Doggett’s 1984 campaign. Paul Begala, who worked in the upper echelon of the campaign at the time, gave him his first big break moving him into the press office for Doggett’s campaign. Mark McKinnon then went to work for former Texas Governor Mark White during his 1986 campaign and then worked on former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer’s campaign in 1987. McKinnon later went to work for the New York-based international political media consulting company Sawyer Miller Group in 1998. McKinnon spent the next several years working on many Texas Democratic winning campaigns, including for late Governor Ann Richards, former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, and the late Congressman Charlie Wilson. After returning to Texas, he joined Public Strategies, Inc. in 1990 and in 1996, McKinnon announced in the Texas Monthly that he was shifting gears and leaving partisan politics in an article entitled, "The Spin Doctor is Out".
McKinnon returned to politics after meeting then Governor George W. Bush at a dinner at the governor’s mansion. Following this encounter, McKinnon and Bush developed a personal relationship. According to Karl Rove, "Bush and McKinnon clicked from moment one. In a bow to McKinnon's cool image, Bush dubbed him "M-Kat." Of his relationship with Bush, McKinnon said, “We had a personal relationship before we had a professional relationship. And when Texas’ Democratic lieutenant governor Bob Bullock endorsed Bush over the Democratic gubernatorial nominee-his own god-son- well that’s when I crossed the bridge. But it was not an easy decision.” In his autobiography, Karl Rove says that Bob Bullock actually recommended McKinnon to handle Bush's advertising. During a Frontline interview describing the former president’s ascendance into the national political arena, McKinnon said, “this Governor Bush was doing some things that really got my attention. He was talking about education reform. He was talking about immigration reform. He was talking about issues that had typically been Democratic issues. He was talking about them in a really compassionate way.’’ McKinnon said that he was particularly “impressed with how he’d gotten ahead of the Republican Party.”