16 Politicians Cashing in Thanks to Washington's Revolving Door
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The revolving doors in Washington spin especially quickly after elections: 79 new members of Congress will take their seats in January, and each one is selecting their staff. Meanwhile, 97 lawmakers have retired, resigned or lost their bids for reelection, and they — and their staff — are looking for work. Politicians are barred, by law, from lobbying their former colleagues within one or two years of leaving the Hill — but the law doesn’t prevent them from making introductions and opening doors for lobbyists in their new jobs. Here’s a look at some lawmakers and lobbyists who’ve made the switch from Capitol Hill to K Street, and vice versa, in the recent past.
1. Rep. Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat, lost his primaryto Mark Critz earlier this year, but he found a new job as senior vice president of public policy, government and community affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. The company was Altmire’s biggest contributor this cycle, donating $27,250 to his campaign; the pharmaceuticals and healthcare industries together donated $161,000, more than twice as much as any other interest group that supported Altmire. One of the defining votes of Altmire’s career as a Democratic politician was against Obamacare. Like Altmire, Blue Cross Blue Shield opposed Obamacare, even working with the American Legislative Exchange Council on state legislation aimed at invalidating the law.
2. Last February, North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) announced he would not seek reelection in 2012 after redistricting made it unlikely he would win. In July, when he was asked by bloggers at the Republic Report if he would become a lobbyist, he told them “you’re barking up the wrong tree.” In November, Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric power company, announced that Shuler would be joining the company as the vice president of federal affairs when his Congressional term ends in January. While in office, Shuler was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats. Shuler told the Asheville Citizen-Times that along with his business and management experience, the “relationships he made in Congress will help Duke.”
3. Less than four weeks after Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) won reelection to a ninth term with 70 percent of the vote, she announced her retirement from the House to begin a new career as the head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in February. The NRECA was born out of a Roosevelt-era public works project to electrify rural areas, but the consumer-owned nonprofit has since turned into an influential heavy hitter on Capitol Hill — it spent over $2 million in lobbying in 2012 and nearly $3 million in 2011. The organization has contributed$72,000 to Emerson and her husband (Emerson took her husband’s seat after he died in June of 1996) during their time in Congress. The outgoing CEO of the association had an annual salary of $1.5 million in 2010 — that’s about 8.5 times what Emerson makes as a congresswoman.
4. Rep. Mike Ross (D-AK) retired this year and will be joining Southwest Power Pool, a utilities company, as its senior vice president for government affairs and public relations. The company is based in Little Rock and transmits electricity for all of Kansas and Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. SPP has also recently clashed with regulators over compensation for joint operating agreements with other utility companies in the area. While in Congress, Ross served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and during the last couple years he has received about $20,500 in donations from electric utility companies even though he was not running for reelection. About half of that came from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the organization Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) will head after she passes through the revolving door next month.