It's a happy and potentially lucrative New Year for many former Capitol Hill denizens, as the turn of the calendar also brings a turn of Washington's revolving door.
As of this week, nearly 250 former congressional employees can legally begin lobbying their former colleagues, the Sunlight Foundation's post-employment lobbying tracker reveals. Included in that list are 71 former members of Congress, some of whom already have secured berths at K Street influence shops even before they were legal to lobby. (House members must wait one year after leaving office before embarking on a lobbying career; for former senators, the cooling-off period is two years.)
They include well-wired veterans such as:
- Howard Berman, a Democrat who represented a Los Angeles-area congressional district for 30 years before losing a bruising redistricting primary that paired him against another long-time Democrat. Berman, the former chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and an original co-sponsor of the controversial (and never enacted) Stop Online Piracy Act, is now working on some of those same issues for Covington and Burling, whose big DC footprint is evident in records compiled by Sunlight's Influence Explorer.
- Cliff Stearns, a 24-year House veteran Republican from Florida, who served on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, is providing counsel on telecommunications and technology at the multi-national influence combine APCO Worldwide.
- Norm Dicks, a Washington state Democrat who spent his entire 38 years in the House as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, is listed as a "senior adviser" to the "policy strategy" firm Van Ness Feldman.
- One-time Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joe Baca, a California Democrat, has been advocating for payday lenders, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reports, while launching a comeback campaign for Congress.
- Former Rep. Don Manzullo, an Illinois Republican who served on the House committees on Financial Services and Foreign Affairs, now heads the Korean Economic Institute of America.
- Ex-Rep. Mary Bono, a California Republican, is working for K Street consulting firm FaeGreBD, which boasts a bipartisan influence profile. Meanwhile Bono's ex-husband, ex-Rep. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, is with Liberty Partners Group, where his father, ex-Sen. Connie Mack, also works.
The list also includes some well-known mavericks whose tendency to ruffle feathers while in Congress makes it unlikely they'd be recruited to court members now that they are out: former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, whose son, Rand, is a senator from Kentucky; former Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Allen West, R-Fla. And there are a number of ex-lawmakers who won't be taking advantage of the opportunity to lobby anytime soon because they are still in politics. Some are running to get their old jobs back, like New York Republican Nan Hayworth; others, such as Mark Critz, a Pennsylvania Democrat running for lieutenant governor, are seeking other offices.
Still, the fact that so many members of Congress were able to land jobs with major league lobbying shops even before the date they can legally start to wield their influence underscores the loopholes in the lobbying registration regime. Individuals do not have to register as lobbyists unless they spend more than 20 percent of their time working on behalf of any single client.
Moreover, some members get around the requirement by taking jobs at the helm of organizations dedicated to influencing policy on behalf of an interest group, such as former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., at the Motion Picture Associaion of America, or former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., at the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, while technically doing no lobbying themselves. (Emerson isn't legal to lobby until later this month).
New York Times columnist Tom Edsall recently elaborated on the burgeoning unlobbyist phenomenon.
Indeed, former lawmakers have a strong incentive not to register as lobbyists: Doing so costs them their ability to stroll into the chambers of the House or Senate, or to use the members' gym facilities, both privileges extended to alumni of the two chambers.
In the current Congress, there is at least one bill to slow Capitol Hill's revolving door: The Stop the Revolving Door in Washington Act would make House and Senate members wait five years before they could begin lobbying their former colleagues. Introduced by Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., and cosponsored by Reps. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee last January, where it has lain dormant since.
(Contributing: Peter Olsen-Phillips)