Retiring Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) will join Duke Energy early next year as senior vice president of federal affairs. Rep. Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who lost his primary, is joining insurer Florida Blue as a government affairs executive. Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), who resigned July 31, will form a public affairs firm, Republic Consulting, with lobbyist Hunter Bates.
So much for closing the revolving door.
Not much is stopping lawmakers and staffers from going straight into Washington’s most powerful lobbying shops, collecting handsome salaries for their high profiles, skills and contacts.
Why? Bans on direct lobbying do not preclude former lawmakers or executive branch officials from going to work for special interests.
This sort of revolving door was supposed to stop after a series of highly touted lobbying reforms in 2007, but while everyone is sure to follow the letter of the law, the path to K Street remains open.
Sure, there are some rules: Outgoing House members must wait one year until they may lobby their former colleagues. For departing senators, it’s two years, and violating the ban could lead to legal trouble. Former congressmen also don’t have House gym privileges.
But former members can still visit their ex-colleagues on the House floor, although they aren’t supposed to lobby while on the floor or carry on if they have a financial stake in a bill being considered.
And even after any waiting period is up, high-profile hires simply aren’t bothering to declare themselves as lobbyists anymore, using opaque titles such as “adviser” that could mean anything.But still...signing up for an interest-group job while you're still casting votes in Congress is pretty tacky.
“Members of Congress should refrain from accepting employment at a firm until they have officially separated from Congress,” said Monte Ward, the newly elected president of the American League of Lobbyists. “Once they have completed the mandatory ‘cooling off’ period, we will welcome them to the profession.”