During debate on the recently enacted lobbying and ethics reforms (see S. 1 for details) one of the most contentious points was the imposition of a two-year lobbying ban on former lawmakers and staff. Many observers declared that this extension of the "cooling off" period would cause some lawmakers and staff to depart before the new law came into effect and now there is evidence that some politicians aren’t willing to wait to cash out. Sen. Trent Lott, a long time member of Congress, announced his surprise retirement today declaring that he would resign by year’s end. CNN reported:
A senior Republican source close to Lott said one reason for the decision is the new lobbying restrictions on former lawmakers.
A law kicks in on January 1 that forbids lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Those who leave by the end of 2007 are covered by the previous law, which demands a wait of only one year.
Lott was a constant critic during the lobbying reform debate, particularly offended by the banning of most gifts, including meals, to lawmakers. He complained that members would be forced to eat at McDonald’s if such a rule would be implemented. It’s unfortunate that members of Congress need to leave public service to make big bucks in the influence game, but that seems to be the nature of things when you can make ten times as much money by spinning out the door to K Street.