The subject of an MSNBC exclusive is Alex Flint - a man who has been through the revolving door a number of times - and the inherent conflicts of interest that stems from congressional staffers going back and forth between Capitol Hill and K Street.
Most recently, Flint left his job as majority staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he was a key player in legislation that provided billions in subsidies to the nuclear industry, to become the chief lobbyist for the industry’s largest trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Flint was hired for the Senate post in 2003 after spending several years as a lobbyist representing a number of large firms with deep interests in the nuclear power field, as well as the NEI. Flint’s boss on the committee was Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., an unabashed booster of the nuclear power industry who has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from employees of the companies that Flint represents.
As a lobbyist, Flint was himself a frequent donor to Domenici’s campaigns before being rehired by the senator. And many of Flint’s qualifications to lobby for the nuclear industry in the first place were acquired through earlier jobs working for Domenici as a staff assistant, legislative aide and clerk of an energy subcommittee chaired by the senator.
Nobody alleges that Flint did anything illegal. Neither the law nor Senate rules prohibited Flint from leaving the Energy Committee post after three years in which he helped develop policy and shepherd legislation on nuclear issues and going directly to work as NEI’s senior vice president for governmental affairs.
A former lobbyist for the for-profit online University of Phoenix is moving from her post at the Education Department to work for the new House Education and Workforce Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), according to the New York Times. Buck McKeon has been an ally of for-profit universities like his predecessor John Boehner (R-OH). A few months ago, “the committee for the first time permitted institutions that teach more than half their courses online to receive federal student aid, a boon to for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix.” Stroup was instrumental in pushing for these rule changes as she oversaw a program that judged whether the 50% rule should be waived. The Education Department Inspector General wrote that her 2003 report to Congress “contained unsupported, incomplete and inaccurate statements.” In 2004 the Chronicle of Higher Education documented the campaign contributions that for-profit universities had funneled into the pockets of McKeon and Boehner. McKeon received $126,000 from these universities from 2003-2004.Continue reading
Former attorney general John Ashcroft has relocated to K Street with a new career as a top Washington lobbyist specializing in homeland security firms and corporate accountability. According to the New York Times, Ashcroft has assembled a “talented team” of “Republican insiders” to tackle the expanding lobbying enterprise for firms seeking homeland security contracts. Ashcroft uses the phrase, “I’ve been at the heart of the war on terror,” as his sale pitch to explain why he can get big contracts for security firms. One of his more prominent clients is ChoicePoint, “a broker of consumer data” that “received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department” during Ashcroft’s tenure as attorney general.Continue reading
Former aides to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) have used their connections to the Senator and institutions connected to him to reap some $20 million in lobbying fees and secure Burns-authored earmarks for their clients, according to Roll Call. The newspaper reports that, “more than a dozen companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sector … have paid lobbying retainers to former Burns aides … As chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on communications through the end of 2004 — and as an ongoing member of the Commerce and Appropriations committees — Burns holds significant sway over how the government regulates and aids the telecommunications industry.” Burns consistently backed legislation and pushed for tax breaks for companies that employed his former staffers as lobbyists.Continue reading
Which came first: the lobbyist or the congressional staffer? The answer in the case of Jeffrey Shockey, aide to Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) profiled in Time Magazine, is just as difficult to determine as the original chicken and egg version. Shockey began his career on Capitol Hill working for Rep. Lewis for eight years. He then left his post in 1999 to join a lobbying firm whose chief partner Bill Lowery was a top donor and close friend of Lewis. “Many of his new clients, including municipalities, hospitals and lesser-known universities, were from Lewis's district” and had business before Lewis and the Appropriations Committee. Shockey “helped win at least $150 million in pork for an array of clients,” with the help of earmarks added to appropriations bills. When Lewis took over the Appropriations Committee he brought Shockey back to work for him, while Shockey’s wife went to work for the very lobbying firm that her husband had just left. Shockey received a $600,000 buyout from the Lowery firm and continued to receive payments from the buyout even as he worked for Lewis.Continue reading