Since resigning from Congress two years ago as a result of some seriously icky tweets, Anthony Weiner has cashed in on his congressional contacts to become another “stealth lobbyist,” earning enough from his corporate clients to move on up to a deluxe Park Avenue Apartment from more humble digs in Queens, all without registering and reporting who he is working for and what he is working on.
Shock and outrage (and some really amusing if not-ready-for-prime-time bits on the Daily Show) accompanied the former representative’s slimy use of social media. But there’s no shock or outrage accompanying his even slimier use of his former position for profit. Indeed, the New York Times seems to think Weiner’s secret lobbying on behalf of corporate clients somehow serves “as a compelling campaign credential” as he considers a run for mayor.
Rather than touting it as a career booster, Weiner’s stealth lobbying should be seen as still more evidence for the need to strengthen current lobbying disclosure laws. The only people in Washington who seem to support secret lobbying are the members of Congress who want to keep that lucrative career path open to themselves when they leave government service. For the rest, closing the 20 percent loophole that allows people like Tom Daschle, Newt Gingrich and now, Anthony Weiner to lobby without registering and reporting makes perfect sense from a transparency and accountability perspective. It is good policy for a junior lobbyist for a nonprofit organization, a mid-level associate for law firm and a named partner in a major lobbying outfit to register and report their lobbying activities. So why aren’t former members of Congress—some of the most powerful influence peddlers inside the Beltway—subject to the same disclosure requirements?
Only a few weeks after Weiner left Congress, he opened up his stealth lobbying shop. But the public became aware of his clients only after they signed waivers, at a time when the former Congressman decided to flaunt his assets (a recurring theme in his life?) declaring himself “a good capitalist.”
His prior “disclosures” on Twitter notwithstanding, Weiner’s most valuable asset may be his easy access to his former congressional colleagues. And although in some respects we have waaay too much information about the former congressman, we don’t know nearly enough about his work as a stealth lobbyist.