Federal Politics

Published — February 23, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Lure of lobbying still strong for House staffers

In spite of new ethics rules, 378 aides have registered as lobbyists since 2009

Introduction

A new study finds that nearly 400 House staffers have moved from Capitol Hill to K Street in recent years, suggesting that recent efforts to curb the revolving door between lawmaking and lobbying are having limited effect.

At least 378 of the 5,710 staffers working on the House side of the Hill at the end of 2009 have since left to become registered lobbyists, according to a report from the Sunlight Foundation, a government accountability group.

Corporate America was the biggest beneficiary of this exodus, Sunlight found. Fully 80 percent of the 378 House staffers-turned-lobbyists are working for corporations, industry groups, or Washington lobbying firms with mostly business clients.

On the other hand, nonprofits advocacy groups are only represented by 37 of these recent ex-staffers, the report noted. Only one works directly for a union group, although on K Street some lobbyists have labor clients.

Regardless of which special interest is signing their checks, Sunlight thinks this steady migration from public to private pay is a cause for concern.

“Congress continues to act as a farm team for future lobbyists,” said Lee Drutman, the senior fellow who authored the report released Wednesday. “Staff build up contacts and policy and political experience. Then they often go ‘downtown’ and cash in, taking their expertise and networks with them.”

State and local governments were heavy users of House staffers’ knowledge and contacts, a circumstance that most likely reflects the tradition of relying on personal connections to obtain earmarks for public works projects. They had 295 lobbying contracts associated with the newly-hired congressional staffers, the most of any single group, followed closely by pharmaceutical and medical device companies (263 contacts), education groups (261), computer and internet companies (226), and electric utilities (196).

Business associations were the top spending group; even though they had only 86 contracts with the new hires, they spent a total of $343 million on lobbying since 2009. Other big spenders were phone companies ($253 million) and computer and internet companies ($202 million).

Two-thirds of the staffers snatched up by K Street came from members’ personal offices. The migration was bipartisan, but more of those who left in period studied worked for Democratic lawmakers — 147, compared to 96 from GOP offices — a ratio that likely had to do with the 63 seats House Democrats lost in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Serving as a lawmaker’s counsel was the most likely launchpad for a downtown job — 11.2 percent of staffers with that job title have left the House to lobby since 2009, Sunlight found. Legislative director positions (8.9 percent became lobbyists) and legislative counsels (8.8 percent) were the other in-demand titles.

Certain committees were particularly likely to spawn lobbyists. More than 12 percent of staffers who were on the House Financial Services Committee are now lobbyists working to steer the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill they helped craft, according to the Sunlight study. The Judiciary Committee, where seven of its 78 staffers went to K Street, and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where 8.7 percent of aides became lobbyists, were the next two with the highest turnover rates.

The newly-hired lobbyists were competing in 2011 for a share of an estimated $3.27 billion in fees paid by private companies and others for such work. That amount was down from $3.51 billion in 2010, the first decrease in a decade, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics last month.

The reason for the decline in declared expenditures is unclear. Many former lobbyists have de-listed, but are still engaged part-time in lobbying activities that fall just short of the thresholds set by the Lobbying Disclosure Act. As a result, their payments don’t count towards the 2011 total spent on registered federal lobbyists.

Others have sought to avoid registering as lobbyist in the first place, watchdogs say. In the wake of new ethics rules imposed by the Obama administration, having lobbying on one’s resume could make an executive branch position hard to come by.

Complicating any reform is the fact that the revolving door separating lobbyists from lawmakers spins both ways. A CRP study in July found that 128 former lobbyists were employed working for the 112th Congress, a 130 percent increase from the last session.

Not surprisingly, a recent effort to impose new transparency on lobbyists has stalled in the legislature.

The Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act, a bill supported by Sunlight that would force lobbyists to disclose who they met with and when, was introduced in June by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). It has since languished in the Judiciary Committee.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.