Mark McKinnon

Creator, Executive Producer, Co-host of Showtime’s The Circus; Co-founder of the Bipartisan Group No Labels; Former Chief Media Advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain

Mark McKinnon is a political advisor, reform advocate, media columnist and television producer. He is the creator, executive producer and co-host of Showtime’s real-time documentary series of the 2016 election and the Trump presidency, The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, the highest rated unscripted program ever on Showtime. He was the chief media advisor to five successful presidential primary and general election campaigns, and is co-founder of No Labels, an organization dedicated to bipartisanship, civil dialogue and political problem solving.

McKinnon has worked for many causes, companies and candidates, including former President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, the late former Governor Ann Richards and Bono. He serves on the boards of numerous organizations dedicated to reforming the influence of money in politics and is a member of the Television Academy and serves on the board of jurors for the Peabody Awards. In 2014, McKinnon launched Mayday PAC to force ethics reform in the United States Congress, along with Harvard law professor Larry Lessig and tech moguls Steve Wozniak, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman. McKinnon and Julian Castro, HUD secretary, served as co-chairs of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry before the historic Supreme Court ruling affirmed the right of all Americans to wed.

According to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, McKinnon is one of “a handful of players behind every big decision, consensus or roadblock in Washington...putting a unique, sometimes hidden stamp on the outcome of today’s debates.” Politics Daily writes, “He’s known for his originality in a field typified by copycats, a mellow personality in a world populated with high-strung brutes and ecumenical urges in a profession dominated by its unadulterated partisans.” “McKinnon is evidence that principled centrism is not an oxymoron,” wrote John Avalon  in a Daily Beast column about the 25 Best Centrist Pundits. “McKinnon piloted John McCain’s 2008 primary campaign to victory. But he announced in advance that if Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, he would ride off into the sunset rather than participate in the negative attacks he knew would be required. This is unheard of in the world of modern politics, where partisanship trumps principle as a matter of course.” Former President George W. Bush says of McKinnon, “I was really impressed by Mark’s creativity, and I was particularly impressed by his honesty.” Senator John McCain, in his typical straight-talk fashion, remarks, “He’s almost a genius.” And President Barack Obama calls McKinnon “a class act.”

For 20 years, he worked at Public Strategies, Inc., where he was an owner and vice chair. In 2010, Public Strategies merged with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where he served as global vice chair and currently serves as an advisor to the firm. An award-winning communications strategist and media producer, McKinnon has been awarded more than 30 Pollie and Telly awards honoring the nation’s best political and public affairs advertising.

President Bush appointed McKinnon to serve as a governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He serves on the board of the Austin Film Society, and he lectures frequently at universities, including the JFK School of Government at Harvard University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. McKinnon has been a regular columnist for The Daily Beast and The Daily Telegraph (U.K.) and a consultant to Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show The Newsroom and Netflix’s House of Cards.

McKinnon attended the University of Texas at Austin and served as editor of the award-winning university newspaper, The Daily Texan. He spent several years in Nashville working as a songwriter with Kris Kristofferson (and was wildly unsuccessful). McKinnon also is a two-time Ironman finisher. His quality of life is exceptionally enhanced by the enduring love and patience of his wife, Annie, whom he started dating before he had a driver’s license, and his daughters, Brita and Kendall.