Where do members of Congress go for a paycheck when they leave office? Far too often, according to the watchdog group Public Citizen, the former pols go to work lobbying their erstwhile colleagues.
The revolving door on the journey from Capitol Hill to the lucrative world of federal lobbying is spinning at a rapid rate, says a July report issued by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group. Congress is no longer a mere destination for those seeking a seat in one of the worlds most famous legislative bodies. For many lawmakers, it has become a way station to wealth, a necessary period of job training and network building so that after leaving their public service jobs they can sell their influence to those with deep pockets.
The group says that 43 percent of the eligible legislators who have left Congress since 1998 have become registered lobbyists. (Ineligible legislators include those who died in office, moved from one congressional house to another, took a job in the executive branch during their term or were jailed after leaving office.)
The extent to which lobbying is a polite term for power mongering can be found in one particularly interesting stat. The group found that, since 2000, the year Republican George Bush won the presidency and his party held control of both houses of Congress, only 15 percent of the Democrats leaving office became lobbyists compared to 62 percent of Republicans. Its not that Dems are by nature more pure of heart. Among the departing congressional class of 1998, when Bill Clinton still called the White House home, 52 percent of the Democrats leaving office became lobbyists.
Eight former Michigan legislators have made the leap to lobbying, according to the report.
Reforms are needed to ensure that members of Congress turned lobbyists cannot use the honors, privileges and access the public bestowed upon them for the benefit of their clients, the report says.
As it is now, former senators and representatives must wait one year from the time they leave office until they can start lobbying their former colleagues. Public Citizen recommends this so-called cooling off period be extended to two years. Doing so, the report says, would effectively limit a former members ability to immediately cash in on the influence acquired while serving in Congress.
The operative word here is immediately. Just as scum will inevitably rise to the top of a stagnant pond, ex-pols will forever be cashing in on their insider status. The best the public can do is make things more difficult for them.
To read the full report go to citizen.org.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at NewsHits@metrotimes.com or