In the spring of 2013, the American Federation of Teachers included KKR & Co. on its list of asset managers it believes to be anti–defined benefit pensions. The New York alternative-asset giant disagreed and quickly brought out a big gun. Kenneth Mehlman, KKR’s global head of public affairs, fired off a letter to AFT president Randi Weingarten (No. 3) highlighting just how much of an ally on the issue KKR has been. “Over the past several years, we have worked in partnership with legislators, policy makers and organized-labor leaders to advocate the importance of defined-benefit plans for public-sector workers,” Mehlman wrote, adding that he had personally worked with former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern (No. 37) on pensions. The AFT must have been impressed, because it took KKR off the blacklist. Mehlman is no ordinary public affairs chief. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College with a JD from Harvard Law School, he was an environmental attorney at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld before entering politics. He served as White House director of political affairs in the George W. Bush administration and chaired the Republican National Committee from 2005 through 2006. He may be best known for coming out as gay in 2010. Although Mehlman, 48, won’t discuss KKR’s efforts to support defined benefit pensions on the record, he remains actively involved in retirement issues. In October he spoke, along with former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (No. 32) and Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler (No. 18), at a forum in Portland, Oregon, advocating a state-sponsored initiative to provide retirement plans for workers at businesses that do not have plans.