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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Former Lawmakers and Non-Lobbying Lobbying

Previous posts have explained that former lawmakers and executive officials can be effective agents of interest groups even when they are not technically lobbying. At Open Secrets, Brian Montopoli and Russ Choma write:
Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, a person must register as a lobbyist if he or she 1) makes more than $3,000 over three months from lobbying, 2) has had more than one lobbying contract and 3) has spent more than 20 percent of his or her time lobbying for a single client over three months. If you don't meet all three of those measures, you don't have to register. That's why former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for example, never had to register as a lobbyist despite his lucrative position providing "strategic advice" about advancing companies' goals and connecting health care firms to lawmakers. Gingrich also promoted the companies that were paying him in presentations on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, there are myriad ways to leverage Washington connections into a well-paying position without officially becoming a lobbyist. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), whose term ends in January, plans to lead the federal affairs team for Duke Energy. (Shuler's connections to members on the House Budget and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, where he served, will come in particularly handy.) Departing Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) will be senior vice president of public policy, government and community affairs at Florida's Blue Cross and Blue Shield Company, which is called Florida Blue. At least he's waiting until the end of his term: After he lost a 2008 primary, Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) left Congress six months before his term was up to take a job at law firm and lobbying powerhouse Dickstein Shapiro.

Former Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.), who became senior vice president of government relations for the International Franchise Association after leaving Congress, described himself as the "puppeteer" to USA Today when he started his job in 2011. "I sit down with the staff I have and the consultants, and we discuss where we need to go, who we need to see, what the issues are. Then, they will go to the Hill," he said.