16 Politicians Cashing in Thanks to Washington's Revolving Door
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.
5. Elizabeth Fowler, a Capitol Hill aide who President Obama chose to oversee the implementation of his health care act, is widely credited as being one of the key architects of Obamacare. As chief health policy counsel to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), she drafted the bill. Now, Fowler has left Capitol Hill for a senior-level position dealing with “global health policy” at Johnson & Johnson’s government affairs and policy group. The private sector is not new to Fowler; as Bill Moyers reported in 2009, before going to work for Baucus, Fowler was a vice president at WellPoint, the nation’s largest health insurer. The Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald writes, “Whatever one’s views on Obamacare were and are: The bill’s mandate that everyone purchase the products of the private health insurance industry, unaccompanied by any public alternative, was a huge gift to that industry.”
In the years since the 2010 midterm elections, many of the legislators in the 111th Congress who retired or were defeated have since found work in the private sector. Of these 119 former senators and representatives, 25 now work for lobbying firms. An additional 18 now work at companies that lobby or are the clients of lobbying firms.
6. One of those 18 is former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) who is now the CEO and chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America where he coordinates its lobbying efforts — a job which brought him to the forefront of the debate around the Stop Online Piracy Act last winter when he chastised tech companies opposing SOPA.
7. Another revolving door story from the 111th Congress is that of former Senator and Republican Party Chairman Mel Martinez(R-FL), who resigned mid-term after four years in the senate and became a lobbyist. He now works for JP Morgan, a bank he helped regulate while on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
8. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO) announced his decision not to run for a fifth term in the Senate in 2009. Some may have thought the then 70 year old was planning on retirement. The truth was far from it. In fact, Bond was so enthusiastic about starting his new career as a lobbyist at St. Louis-based law firm, Thompson Coburn, he started work there two days before his replacement was sworn in to the Senate. Bond told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he plans to focus on “matters in which he developed expertise over the years” including trade, agriculture and transportation.
9. Bob Bennett from Utah was one of the Republican senators targeted by the Tea Party during the 2010 midterm elections. In his party’s primary, he finished third behind two Tea Party candidates and was ousted after an 18-year career. After he served out his final term, he formed Bennett Consulting Group, a firm that lobbies for JPMorgan, a bank he was tasked with regulating as a member of three Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs subcommittees.
10. And then there’s Evan Bayh (D-IN), who explained his decision to retire from the Senate with an Op-Ed in The New York Times complaining about the “strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus” — then, ironically andperhaps hypocritically, went on to become a contributor to Fox News, a partner in lobbying firm McGuireWoods LLP and a senior advisor at private equity firm Apollo Global Management
The Defense Department
The good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington recently took a look at the post-retirement plans for the 108 three- and four-star generals and admirals who left the military between 2009 and 2011. They found that 76 (about 70 percent) took jobs with defense contractors, companies selling products and services to their former colleagues. The top five contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — hired at least nine of these former generals and admirals. In 2011, these same five companies received $113 billion through government contracts. One retired general highlighted in the report, General James Cartwright, was appointed to the Defense Policy Board, a group that advises defense department officials with “independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy.” Cartwright was also on Raytheon’s board of directors — receiving $85,000 and $1,500 for each meeting he attended.
Of course, the door swings both ways. Another study found that defense firms see a notable bump in the price of their stock when one of their employees takes a job at the Pentagon: “According to the results,” the economists write, “investors clearly expect firms to profit from their political connections.”
The Obama Administration
While campaigning in 2008, President Obama declared thatlobbyists would be unwelcome in his administration: “They will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president,” he said. On his first day in office, he issued an executive order requiring new staffers to sign a pledge that they will not work on any issues related to former employers, former clients, or former interests on which they lobbied. But the order had a waiver clause — essentially, former lobbyists could join the administration if the administration issued a waiver and said it was ok. That meant it was business as usual.
The Center for Responsive Politics highlights 380 members of Obama’s administration who have passed through the revolving door during Obama’s first term. That’s roughly in line with George W. Bush’s administration — the Center’s list for Bush’s two terms highlights 662 members. Here are a few notable names on the Obama administration list:
11. Peter Orszag served as the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and was then hired by Obama to direct his administration’s Office of Management and Budget. In 2010, he left that job, and in 2011, he became vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup.
12. Colin Crowell served, during the first years of the Obama administration, as a senior adviser to the chairman of the FCC. Crowell had a twenty-year-long career in politics, but left in 2010to become a lobbyist for some of the media companies he once helped regulate. In 2011, he became head of global public policy for Twitter.
Early on in his administration, Obama appointed several former lobbyists to administrative positions.
15. Department of the Treasury Chief of Staff Mark Patterson,Timothy Geithner’s highest ranking employee, was a VP at Goldman Sachs. He was registered to lobby for the bank until he joined the Obama-Biden transition project in 2008.
16. Vice President Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain was also Al Gore’s chief of staff during the Clinton administration. During President Bush’s first term, Klain worked as a lobbyist for Melveny & Myers, where he represented political heavy hitters like Time Warner, U.S. Airways and Fannie Mae — where he reportedly helped the corporation overcome some “regulatory issues.”