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Government for hire: High-paying lobbying jobs going to former officials

Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times looks at the revolving door between Congress and the financial services industry, citing a report Public Citizen released last fall that “found that at least 70 former members of Congress were lobbying for Wall Street and the financial services sector last year, including two former Senate majority leaders (Trent Lott and Bob Dole), two former House majority leaders (Richard A. Gephardt and Dick Armey) and a former House speaker (J. Dennis Hastert).”

It’s a symbiotic relationship that has gone on for years; corporations and lobbying firms raise millions in campaign contributions for members of Congress in order to influence legislation, while at the same time hiring outgoing members and their staff to high-paying jobs because of their insider access.  Recently a top staffer for Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, left for a lobbying job with a Wall Street firm. In that case, the staffer, Peter S. Roberson, had been writing legislation that would directly impact his new employer, IntercontinentalExchange.

From the NYT:

But while the speed of the aide’s switch from government to Wall Street was extraordinary, it reflected reality as Congress takes on an overhaul of the system of regulating financial giants: Wall Street, perhaps more than any other industry, is bolstering its lobbying forces, and turning more and more to former lawmakers and Congressional staff members to lead the fight against stiff rules.

Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s expert on ethics and lobbying, had an earlier post on this blog about the revolving door, writing that it threatens the integrity of government in three ways:  1) Public officials may be influenced by the promise of lucrative jobs 2) Public-officials-turned-lobbyists have access to former colleagues that is not available to others 3) It causes the public to lose faith in government’s ability to regulate Wall Street.

Holman also was quoted in the NYT article:

“Hiring a well-connected staffer can run a firm something like $300,000 to $600,000 a year, and for a member of Congress, it’s anywhere from $1 million to $3 million,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen. “The only businesses that can really afford that are those that are very wealthy, but clearly these companies are getting their money’s worth.”