Ben Barnes (born April 17, 1938) is an American politician and lobbyist, who was once the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. He was a vice-chair and top fund-raiser of the John Kerry campaign, being one of only eight persons who raised over $500,000 for Kerry
Barnes and his third wife Melanie live in Austin with their two daughters Elena and Blaire, who were adopted from Romania and Russia respectively. Barnes has two children from his first marriage, son Greg and daughter Amy. He has four grandchildren: Ashley Mathis, Ben Barnes II, Kelly Barnes, and Katherine Mathis.
Barnes served as state Speaker of the House in Texas from 1965-1969. The position opened when Governor John B. Connally, Jr., named Speaker Byron M. Tunnell to succeed the retiring Ernest O. Thompson on the Texas Railroad Commission. Barnes was chosen by House members to succeed Tunnell and hence becaqme the youngest Speaker in Texas history. He was also U.S. representative to the NATO Conference in 1967, and United Nations Representative to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968. Barnes served as lieutenant governor from 1969–1973, often called the most powerful position in the Texas state government because the lieutenant governor can block a governor's agenda from being considered by the Texas State Senate.
Since leaving elective office, Barnes has become a successful business executive and civic leader. He is the founder of the Ben Barnes Group, a business consulting and lobbying firm. He has served as a consultant, director or chairman of more than two dozen companies, including SBC Communications, American Airlines, Dallas Bank and Trust, Grumman Systems Support Corporation, Laredo National Bank and the Barnes/Connally Partnership.
The Ben Barnes Group has made millions of dollars by acting as the go-between, bringing special interest groups and companies together with highly-placed Democratic officeholders. The Center for Responsive Politics has listed Barnes as the third largest all-around Democratic donor in America from 1999 to 2004.
In 1999, Barnes claimed that while Lt Governor of Texas he had "personally interceded" with Texas Air National Guard officials to get George W. Bush into the Guard. It was later discovered he was Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives at the time of this alleged intervention. At that point he stated he didn't use his political influence but rather his friendship with a General to get it accomplished.
Barnes repeated the claim in the U.S. presidential election, 2004. His daughter Amy claims that he told her in 2000 that he didn't intercede on Bush's behalf and that he was only saying these things to promote his book and help get Kerry elected since he was so heavily involved in the Kerry campaign.