Two events today prove you don't have to be an elected official or a registered lobbyist to wield clout in DC.Continue reading
Analysis shows that working for a long-serving senator — especially one in a key leadership position — is a very good stepping stone to a lucrative career in lobbying.Continue reading
As leaders in Congress announced a series of hearings this June to tackle huge telecommunications issues with a focus on... View ArticleContinue reading
Congress doesn’t spin records, they spin in revolving doors. And those doors are spinning faster than ever, according to a... View ArticleContinue reading
Now this is sweet. Trent Lott, former U.S. senator and Senate Majority Leader and now lobbyist, is using his $1.3 million campaign war chest left over from when he retired from the Senate to make political donations to Members of Congress that vote and take other actions that directly impact the interests of his clients. As the report says, the practice is legal (amazingly so), and he's not the first retiring member to give former colleagues left over campaign funds. It all fits my view of the mix of money and politics: it's not what's illegal that's the real problem.
Lott retired from the Senate in December and then joined former Sen. John Breaux (D -La.) to launch The Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, a Washington lobbying operation. The Associated Press quotes Craig Holman at Public Citizen and a spokesperson from the Center for Responsive Politics as saying Lott's stockpile, $1.1 million at the end of March, is the largest they can remember, and is drawing scrutiny of the Mississippi Republican. The clients he has signed on to promote, the proposed Delta-Northwest airline merger and Northrop Grumman's $35 billion contract to build tanker jets for the Air Force, are drawing attention too.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal wrote an exclusive article (I blogged about it here) detailing that a federal investigation into Mississippi lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs' bribery of local judges had expanded to include former Senator and revolving door operator Trent Lott. The Sun Herald reports today that Lott denies being under investigation and that he has simply been interviewed as a potential witness:
"I may be called as a witness," Lott said, "but I've been assured that I'm not under investigation, and rightly so because nothing was done to justify that."Continue reading
After the President signed his name to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, members of Congress had until January 1st to vacacte their seats if they wanted to trade the black suit and American flag lapel of Capitol Hill for the black suit and American flag lapel of K Street. The ethics reform bill extended the "cooling off" period for lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from one year to two years, which would leave retired members of Congress with 2 years to find something to do - write your memoirs or teach a class at the university that got so many earmarks they named a building after you - before they can make the big bucks on K Street. When Sen. Trent Lott announced his sudden retirement before the "cooling off" extension took effect it was clear that he wasn't looking to settle down at the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at Ole Miss. No, Lott was getting out early to work with his old bipartisan pal John Breaux on K Street.
There were, however, rumors that avoiding the "cooling off" extension was not the exact reason for Lott's early exit from his long congressional career. The Wall Street Journal puts those rumors to rest by publishing details of a federal investigation into Lott's possible role in a case involving the bribing of Mississippi judges by his half-brother Richard "Dickie" Scruggs:Continue reading
A "two-fer" is how U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) termed his $6 million earmark for a defense contractor in his home state. He placed the earmark in a defense appropriations bill that became law in November. Despite not being requested by the Department of Defense, the funds are going for unmanned military aircraft research and development. John Pruett at POGO's blog called it "Wicker's Unmanned Aerial Pork." By terming it a two-fer, Wicker was bragging how his actions accomplished the duel goals of supporting national defense and job-creation back home. What he didn't say is that his top campaign contributor was being rewarded handsomely in the deal as well. That's the real "two-fer."Continue reading
Trent Lott was quick, in his two appearances yesterday, to rule out health and scandal as reasons for his sudden and very surprising resignation from the Senate. But Washingtonians know that whenever a politician leaves to "spend more time with his family," there are likely to be other reasons. Sources in Mississippi law enforcement inform No Comment that FBI agents are now raiding the law office of Richard "Dickie" Scruggs in Oxford. Scruggs is the brother-in-law of Trent Lott, and, as we reported earlier, several Mississippi newspapers openly questioned whether Lott had intervened to protect Scruggs in a recent criminal probe that produced the prosecution of a number of other Mississippi lawyers and judges with whom he was closely connected. Could there be a connection between the FBI raid and the Lott resignation? Just asking.
During debate on the recently enacted lobbying and ethics reforms (see S. 1 for details) one of the most contentious points was the imposition of a two-year lobbying ban on former lawmakers and staff. Many observers declared that this extension of the "cooling off" period would cause some lawmakers and staff to depart before the new law came into effect and now there is evidence that some politicians aren't willing to wait to cash out. Sen. Trent Lott, a long time member of Congress, announced his surprise retirement today declaring that he would resign by year's end. CNN reported:
A senior Republican source close to Lott said one reason for the decision is the new lobbying restrictions on former lawmakers.
A law kicks in on January 1 that forbids lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Those who leave by the end of 2007 are covered by the previous law, which demands a wait of only one year.
Lott was a constant critic during the lobbying reform debate, particularly offended by the banning of most gifts, including meals, to lawmakers. He complained that members would be forced to eat at McDonald's if such a rule would be implemented. It's unfortunate that members of Congress need to leave public service to make big bucks in the influence game, but that seems to be the nature of things when you can make ten times as much money by spinning out the door to K Street.Continue reading