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Washington DC’s 500 Most Influential People of 2023

Washingtonian Top 500 2023
Thought Leader: Michael Pillsbury
April 23, 2023

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

For our third annual edition of the Most Influential People Shaping Policy, we again sought out smart, innovative Washingtonians who care about issues and spend a lot of time thinking about them.

The selection process is not easy. Despite what the news says, there are a lot of people in Washington who care deeply about this country and advocate on behalf of changes and ideas they believe will make the nation better.

Our list is determined by several factors. 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. We want people who understand the nuances and complexities of a particular issue area. And we focus on policy subjects we believe are of special relevance right now to our slate of elected officials.

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. We also didn’t include elected officials and Capitol Hill or administration staffers—the influencees, so to speak. 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.

Many of those selected have indeed served government in some capacity, such as Alexandra Veitch, who worked for former senator Barbara Mikulski but now helps YouTube with public policy. Or John Lettieri, a onetime GOP Hill staffer who today leads the Economic Innovation Group and pushes for better economic policies. We believe that the people we’ve highlighted possess special insight into how to get an issue elevated. We also think some of the names here are likely to land in government in the future, either because of their ambition to serve or because they’ll be tapped for their expertise.

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


Michael Pillsbury
Heritage Foundation
Senior Fellow

Considered a leading authority on China, Pillsbury regularly provides commentary on the economic tussles with the superpower on Fox News and Newsmax.

Education: Stanford; Columbia.

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