Rep. Mike Oxley, the former chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, retired. So did Sen. Paul Sarbanes, the ranking minority member of the Senate Banking Committee. Rep. Harold Ford lost his bid for an open Senate seat, while Sen. Rick Santorum lost his bid for his own. Criminal investigations cost both Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Rep. Bob Ney their seats.
When they left office, what happened to their former staffers? Did they go through Washington’s Revolving Door? Using the Sunlight Foundation’s new Where are they now? distributed research tool, you can find out who’s gone from Congress to K Street. The 109th Congress closed up shop nearly one year ago. For the top staff members whose bosses resigned, retired or were voted out of office, the one year "cooling off period" — during which they are not allowed to lobby their former colleagues on Capitol Hill — is coming to an end. Lower level staffers have been able to lobby their old colleagues on the Hill all year.
Now you can find out what former aides are now lobbying on everything from S-Chip expansion to bridges to nowhere. Where are they now? also extends the distributed research model by allowing users, in addition to doing the preliminary research on potential revolvers, to verify information, resulting in a 100 percent-citizen-powered project. Where are they now? will thus take our experiments in citizen journalism to a new level—producing high quality, fact-checked facts that any citizen or journalist can quote and rely on.
Using the tool is simple. Pick a lawmaker you want to research from the project’s home page, choose one their former aides from the the list taken from the September 2006 edition of the Congressional Directory, and look for any matches in the Senate Office of Public Records online database of lobbyist disclosures. If you do find a match, enter the firm’s name and contact info from the SOPR database, and you’re done with step one. If you want to verify the data, use the tool to keep track of your phone calls to the lobbying firm. And that’s it. A fun little diversion for the holiday season. (P.S. — For those curious, our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics maintain a pretty good list of former members of Congress who’ve gone through the revolving door–including those who left during the 109th Congress.)