Revolving Door Bailout Army


Mother Jones adds more fuel to the lobbying disclosure fire by showing over 100 former congressional staffers, lawmakers, and government officials are hired to lobby for firms receiving bailout money:

Corporations hiring departed congressional staffers as lobbyists is a ho-hum practice on K Street. But the stakes are particularly high when these Capitol Hill vets are sicced on programs and legislation that are crucial to the country’s financial recovery and that involve massive amounts of government spending. In the past year, top bailout recipients, from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America to JPMorgan Chase, have dispatched more than 100 past congressional staffers and ex-government officials to shape the bailouts to their liking. This crew of well-connected lobbyists includes ex-employees of the congressional committees on banking, finance, and commerce; one-time aides to Democratic and Republican leaders; former Treasury officials; and a past aide to Rahm Emanuel, now the White House chief of staff.

This revolving door bailout army is surely using its connections and influence on the Hill and across the various agencies to help their clients. Lawmakers, of course, are less than willing to discuss the actual contacts that their staffer-turned-lobbyists have made:

Several leading lawmakers with ex-aides lobbying for bailed-out financial titans were not eager to discuss contacts between their offices or committees and those lobbyists. The offices of both Dodd and Shelby refused to respond to requests for information about any interactions with former staffers now on the payroll of financial firms. (Ditto for Dodd’s banking committee.) A spokesperson for Baucus would not comment directly on whether the Senate finance committee chairman has been lobbied by his past aides. He only noted, “Over the past six months Sen. Baucus and his staff have been providing aggressive oversight of the TARP funds, and fought to protect American taxpayers.” Baucus’ office brushed aside Mother Jones‘ questions about two former chiefs of staff: David Castagnetti, a lobbyist for Credit Suisse (an AIG counterparty), and Jeff Forbes, who lobbies for Capitol One, which received $3.56 billion in TARP funds. The office of Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who sits on both the Senate banking and finance committees, did not respond to a request for comment regarding any contacts between Bunning’s staff and Jack Deuser, who lobbied for Bank of America and Bank of New York Mellon, recipients of $45 billion and $3 billion in TARP money, respectively. Until 2005, Deuser was Bunning’s chief of staff.

The hiring of former employees as lobbyists serves a singularly important function for the profession: access. With access being such a tangible, and monetized, quality for lobbyists these former government employees are essential for a well-oiled lobbying machine. And that access is all the more reason why their contacts should be disclosed, as Sunlight has proposed.

The revolving door isn’t waiting for new reporting rules either. Bloomberg reports today that one-fourth of all retired or defeated lawmakers are now earning their living in the influence business.