Congress to K Street: 176 members left for influence gigs over last decade – Center for Responsive Politics


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Over the last decade, at least 176 members of Congress joined the influence industry, according to a new report from OpenSecrets that focuses on “shadow lobbying” and the revolving door. Leaving Congress for lobbying or consulting work is bipartisan. Since the 111th Congress, which ended in January 2011, 94 Republicans took a spin through the revolving door as did 81 Democrats. A whopping 26 of the 29 members of last Congress to join the influence industry were Republicans — a lopsided number driven by a wave of Republican retirements ahead of House Democrats’ sweeping win in November. The reverse happened during the red wave in 2010, when 40 of the 56 members who went through the revolving door were Democrats. A majority of the former members took their talents to K Street lobbying firms or major law firms that engage in federal lobbying work. Powerhouse lobbying firms Squire Patton Boggs and Akin, Gump are the top collectors of congressional talent, taking in five former members each since the 111th Congress. To kick off 2019, Squire Patton Boggs hired former Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who retired at session’s end, and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), the fourth-ranking Democrat who lost in a primary upset to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The firm also retains former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as an unregistered adviser. DLA Piper, Venable, Cannae Policy Group, Greenberg Traurig and King & Spalding each hired four members of Congress each over the same time period.High-ranking members of Congress have no trouble finding high-paying jobs where they can leverage their extensive experience and connections. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) received a seven-figure job at financial firm Moelis & Company, which advises corporations on strategic decisions. Former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) worked as an adviser for Gephardt Group after retiring from Congress in 2011. Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who read talking points from Saudi Arabia on the House floor, became policy director for Brownstein, Hyatt, which lobbies for the Middle Eastern country. 

None of those three representatives registered as lobbyists for their new gigs. But OpenSecrets’ analysis found that representatives on average are more likely to register as lobbyists than senators. Forty percent of senators joining the influence industry registered to lobby compared to 55 percent of representatives. The revolving door is nothing new, but an increasing number of lawmakers are trying to shut it through new policies, including Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.Warren’s plan bans presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and cabinet secretaries from ever becoming lobbyists and limits other federal employees. It also attempts to expand the definition of a lobbyist to any individual paid to influence government. This week, Sanders released his plan to stop Washington corruption, which includes a ban on lobbying from former members of Congress and their senior staffers. “Congress cannot represent their constituents while special interest groups have the ability to influence decisions with corner offices and lucrative job offers,” Sanders said in a press release.Lobbying experts say a ban on lobbying for former members — unlikely to pass Congress and survive the courts as it is — would actually encourage “shadow lobbying” if lobbying disclosure laws are not made more rigorous. Click here to explore a searchable list of revolving door members. 

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Karl joined the Center for Responsive Politics in October 2018. As CRP’s money-in-politics reporter, he writes and edits stories for the news section and helps manage a team of diligent writers. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Karl graduated from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2016 with a B.A. in journalism. He previously worked at The Globe, a regional newspaper based in Worthington, Minnesota. His email is [email protected]