Manifest Destiny: From Constitution Ave. to K Street


As lawmakers gain seniority in Congress their influence grows and with that growth comes a sort of manifest destiny to expand. Staffers jump to K Street and begin lobbying on the lawmaker’s pet issues or for the pet industries of the lawmaker’s state. After a few decades the lawmaker has built a nice little empire with dozens of little territories in the private sector. So, what happens when the emperor is deposed, and the territories are left to themselves. That is the first question all in Ted Stevens-land must ask themselves:

With 40 years of seniority on important Senate committees, Mr. Stevens, a Republican, wielded unrivaled power over industries like fishing, forestry, communications, aviation and the military, steering billions each year to pet Alaskan projects like Eskimo whaling, missile defense and even salmon-based dog treats called Yummy Chummies.

His power made his good will a valuable commodity on K Street, where many lobbying firms are located. During the past five years, just nine lobbyists and firms known primarily for their ties to Mr. Stevens reported over $60 million in lobbyist fees, not including other income for less direct “consulting.” The most recent person to leave his staff to become a lobbyist reported fees of more than $800,000 in just the last 18 months.

So when Alaskan voters narrowly rejected Mr. Stevens’s bid for re-election last month, just days after a jury convicted him of federal ethics violations, it was in some ways like the closing of the plant in a company town.

Of course, Sen. Stevens’ Washington empire is not the only one suffering. Rep. John Dingell, recently deposed by Rep. Henry Waxman from his perch atop the all powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, built himself a large following in the lobbying world over his 53 years in Congress. Other lawmakers who have built large K Street empires include Ted Kennedy, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Max Baucus, and Arlen Specter.

For a whole database of staffers-turned-lobbyists check out the Open Secrets Revolving Door Database.