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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Loopholes and the Revolving Door

Many posts have discussed the "revolving door" between Congress and interest groups.  The New York Times reports on regulatory loopholes that allow the door to keep spinning, especially on the House side:
The salary loophole is perhaps the most popular. House aides can avoid the one-year “cooling-off” period as long as their salaries are below a certain cap, totaling $130,500 last year.
Erik Olson’s salary fell below that cap when he stepped down in September from his job as chief of staff to Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin. Soon after, he started to lobby Congress on behalf of corporate clients like Leprino Foods of Denver, which wanted to shape the so-called Farm Bill, a topic that Mr. Kind was involved in.
Mr. Olson, when asked if he had contacted his former boss in the months since he left, said his firm’s policy was “to not publicize who we are meeting with on the Hill or administration,” and a spokesman for Mr. Kind simply said, “No comment.”
Dee Buchanan, a Republican who earned more than $170,000 during his last year as a senior aide to Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, benefited from a different exemption.
After departing Capitol Hill in fall 2012, Mr. Buchanan started a job with Ogilvy Government Relations. The firm’s website boasts that Mr. Buchanan — who quickly registered to lobby for the American Bankers Association and the CME Group, one of the world’s largest futures exchanges — was “the ‘go-to guy’ for the new House Financial Services Committee chairman,” Mr. Hensarling.
Despite the close ties, Mr. Buchanan was free to immediately lobby most members of Mr. Hensarling’s committee. Mr. Buchanan’s one-year ban did not apply to the committee at large because his government paycheck had come from the House Republican Conference, a leadership arm of the party that Mr. Hensarling led in 2011 and 2012. As such, Mr. Buchanan was restricted from lobbying only Mr. Hensarling and a few other committee members who also belonged to leadership.
Democratic aides have made similar moves.
The one-year ban also allows former aides to “interact socially“ with former bosses or Capitol Hill colleagues. Although there can be no “intent to influence” a lawmaker’s “official actions or decisions” at dinner parties and golf games, the lobbyists can work behind the scenes, using their expertise to advise clients about the inner workings of Congress. And when it comes to working on a political campaign, there are few restrictions, since such activity is considered a form of free speech.