A new Congress is sworn in today with the promise of significant reform. And as Congress is sworn in, the Center for Responsive Politics is releasing a Revolving Door database that profiles more than 6,400 individuals who have worked in both the federal government and the private sector. The practice of lawmakers and staff leaving the Hill and then plying their contacts with their former colleagues on behalf of private interests is one of the most critiqued practices on the Hill. Now we really have a full, factual picture of what's going on.
You should check it out. It's the most comprehensive source to date for figuring out who's who in the Washington influence industry, and for uncovering how their government connections afford them privileged access to those in power. Users can see, for example, which federal regulators are now working for the industries they once oversaw and which lobbyists might be capitalizing on their past employment with congressional committees that award government contracts, subsidies, earmarked appropriations and tax breaks. It's quite breathtaking to connect the dots.
The people profiled in the Revolving Door Database have worked in approximately 1,200 congressional offices and more than 350 executive branch agencies and judicial courts. In the private sector, they have been employed by nearly 2,000 lobbying, law or public relations firms and other organizations. About 70 percent of the individuals in the database are registered lobbyists. The remainder currently work at law and public relations firms, industry trade associations or unions, where their jobs may entail lobbying, formally or informally.
Here's are some interesting factoid turned up by the The Nationa Journal's Congress Daily, that's already ploughing through the database: The lawmaker with the most staffers who have left to work on K Street is Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. The database lists 28 people who used to work for Sen. Ted Kennedy who now represent a particular interest with business before Congress. One hundred and twenty people who have spun through the door between government and the private sector used to work for President Bush and the database lists five who used to work for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and 10 who worked for Senator Reid who are now in the private sector.
If you want to see what I think reform should look like across the board, see my piece published today over at TomPaine.com.