Lobby-a-palooza! New year brings new turn of the revolving door

Image of champagne bucket, glasses and New Year's hats.

Former congressional employees have an extra reason to celebrate the New Year. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com

It’s a happy and potentially lucrative New Year for many former Capitol Hill denizens, as the turn of the calendar also brings a turn of Washington’s revolving door.

As of this week, nearly 250 former congressional employees can legally begin lobbying their former colleagues, the Sunlight Foundation’s post-employment lobbying tracker reveals. Included in that list are 71 former members of Congress, some of whom already have secured berths at K Street influence shops even before they were legal to lobby. (House members must wait one year after leaving office before embarking on a lobbying career; for former senators, the cooling-off period is two years.)

They include well-wired veterans such as:

See the full list of members who are legal to lobby here. We’re adding where-they-are-now details as we get them. Know something we don’t? Email us here. A second tab shows the full list of former congressional employees legal to lobby as of this week. It includes many senior staffers.

The list also includes some well-known mavericks whose tendency to ruffle feathers while in Congress makes it unlikely they’d be recruited to court members now that they are out: former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, whose son, Rand, is a senator from Kentucky; former Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Allen West, R-Fla. And there are a number of ex-lawmakers who won’t be taking advantage of the opportunity to lobby anytime soon because they are still in politics. Some are running to get their old jobs back, like New York Republican Nan Hayworth; others, such as Mark Critz, a Pennsylvania Democrat running for lieutenant governor, are seeking other offices.

Still, the fact that so many members of Congress were able to land jobs with major league lobbying shops even before the date they can legally start to wield their influence underscores the loopholes in the lobbying registration regime. Individuals do not have to register as lobbyists unless they spend more than 20 percent of their time working on behalf of any single client.

Moreover, some members get around the requirement by taking jobs at the helm of organizations dedicated to influencing policy on behalf of an interest group, such as former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., at the Motion Picture Associaion of America, or former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., at the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, while technically doing no lobbying themselves. (Emerson isn’t legal to lobby until later this month).

New York Times columnist Tom Edsall recently elaborated on the burgeoning unlobbyist phenomenon.

Indeed, former lawmakers have a strong incentive not to register as lobbyists: Doing so costs them their ability to stroll into the chambers of the House or Senate, or to use the members’ gym facilities, both privileges extended to alumni of the two chambers.

In the current Congress, there is at least one bill to slow Capitol Hill’s revolving door: The Stop the Revolving Door in Washington Act would make House and Senate members wait five years before they could begin lobbying their former colleagues. Introduced by Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., and cosponsored by Reps. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee last January, where it has lain dormant since.

(Contributing: Peter Olsen-Phillips)