Incumbent lawmakers plan cushy lobbying gigs

representing Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who has also decided not to run for another term, could be one of them. She had conversations with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, according to two Democratic lobbyists. Bustos’ spokesperson told POLITICO that the MP has not yet made a final decision on her next steps, but has “had conversations with a wide range of organizations in many different sectors.” Bustos still intended to complete his term, the spokesman said.

Those heading for the exits follow a rich history of former lawmakers enjoying their public service in Washington. Rules exist to prevent lawmakers from exerting undue influence on their former colleagues, but few prevent them from selling their experience to potential employers.

Former lawmakers are prohibited from directly lobbying their former colleagues during a “cooling-off period” that lasts one year for House members and two years for senators.

However, they can start advising their clients (except foreign political parties and governments intending to influence the government) immediately. In this capacity, they can offer advice on the inner workings of their Congressional conference, a more personal understanding of members’ specific interests, and access to their contact list.

This type of advice is called “shadow lobbying,” said Jeff Hauser, founder of the Revolving Door Project, a group focused on corporate and federal government influence. Hauser said there were few enforcement mechanisms for those congressional rules beyond the press.

Beyond Bustos, it’s unclear if any of the members in current talks with lobbying firms will leave Congress before their Jan. 3 term ends. If they do, it could complicate the Democratic Party’s efforts to advance a number of flawed legislative initiatives.

A spokesperson for Akin Gump declined to comment. Butterfield and Kind’s aides did not return requests for comment. Neither did a representative from McGuireWoods. Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesperson for Squire Patton Boggs, said he was unaware of the conversations with Kind, but noted, in a statement, “we always talk to people and generally don’t comment. not recruiting efforts”.

At least one member of the current 117th Congress has already walked through the revolving door. Former Democratic Representative Filemon Vela, now at lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, resigned from Congress earlier this year, triggering a special election in his Texas district. Soon after, he registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act to lobby for the Corpus Christi Port Authority, among other clients.

For lobbying firms, former legislators offer a special draw above core staffers because of their unique connections and insight. Butterfield, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was first elected to the House in 2004 and currently sits on the energy and commerce panel. Kind, who sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has been in office since 1997.

“The greatest value for lawmakers joining the companies is simply the cache,” said one Democratic lobbyist. “The name and header that helps sell new customers.”

Members could also have relationships with businesses in their district or state — and could be turned into potential customers, the lobbyist said.


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