In many a congressman’s heart there is a dream, a dream to one day use the contacts and friendships you’ve created on Capitol Hill and turn them into a million-dollar career as a lobbyist exploiting the system for earmarks and personal wealth. These congressmen fall asleep pondering when they will visit the pearly revolving door and how much better life will be when spin through it. For those with the dream there is nothing worse than ripping it away from them. Fear of facing constituents that want to turn your head into an ornament on Col. Kurtz’ front yard doesn’t faze you. Nor does the fear of an imminent indictment in a wide-ranging public corruption case involving the very people you wish to be. No, for one dreamer (and he’s not the only one), Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), what drove him to forgo reelection was the fear of losing his chance to cash out.
On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Ney that he would not receive a “lucrative career on K Street to pay those tuition bills, along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees piling up” if he lost his upcoming election. Ney had previously stated that he would not under any circumstances jump from the race. Obviously the dream came first. Now I wonder if you can lobby Congress from a jail cell. Maybe you could if they let you keep a Blackberry. Clients could come during visiting hours and you could offer quid pro quos during conjugal visits.
Apparently, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (Lieberman-Ct.) wife, Hadassah, wanted the three-term Senator to rake in the big bucks rather than have another go at his current opponent, Democratic voters. Lieberman, unlike Ney and countless other congressmen before him, has a different dream, to be the number one guy in his party — the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.
The problem of congressmen cashing out into the lobbying world is pretty serious one that could use a solution. Ezra Klein, writing at the American Prospect, proposes a raise in congressional salaries to keep members of Congress from trying to keep up with the lobbying Joneses. Nicholas Beaudrot, guest posting at Klein’s blog, has a couple different solutions and one of them I completely agree with, “Congress and the White House ought to find more avenues for ex-Senators and Congressman who do want to stay in public service to continue their work on pet causes, the way Sam Nunn has done since leaving the Senate in the mid-90s.” It would be nice to see more members of Congress take an interest in continuing public service rather than following their own cupidity (often blamed on a wife as Lieberman’s statement suggests) to K Street.
But maybe some members aren’t in it for the public service. They might just be following the dream.