Tilting at Windmills

November/ December 2011 The takeover

By Charles Peters

In previous columns I have noted that congressional staffers now dream not of becoming members, as they once did, but of earning big bucks as lobbyists. Now comes a study with the hard evidence, produced by the transparency advocacy group LegiStorm, finding that almost 5,400 current and former staffers “have gone through the lobbying ‘revolving door’ in the past decade alone.”

Lobbying firms also have reverse influence by farming out their employees to serve as staff on influential congressional committees. For example, the Washington Post has reported that there are thirteen former lobbyists on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and twelve serving as staff for the debt reduction “super committee.” To top it all off, the Project on Government Oversight reports that a former Goldman Sachs official is now employed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “helping the committee chair, Rep. Darryl Issa (R-California), write letters to banking regulators questioning the need for new derivatives oversight.”

Talk about letting foxes into the chicken coop!

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.


  • Objective Dem on November 13, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Very good point. I can see this generating problems a couple of ways. One issue is staff wants to stay on the good side of their future employers so at best they do no harm and at worse do "favors." The other issue is the lobbyists aren't just lobbyists, they are friends,former colleagues and former bosses.

  • markg8 on November 14, 2011 11:53 AM:

    As Jack Abramoff said on 60 Minutes, "When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, "You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us." Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they're gonna do. And not only that, they're gonna think of things we can't think of to do."

    I think I'll try to get ahold of my lackluster GOP congresswoman's chief of staff and see if I can convince her it's time to move on to a new career of highly lucrative private sector lobbying.

  • LA-CC on December 05, 2011 9:38 PM:

    Thank you so much for passing along this information. I particularly was interested in reading that Issa is actually seeking help from the industry he's trying to help - rather than representing the people who sent him to Washington. I would love to see this get not only more exposure, but an investigation into the propriety of this kind of thing. There really ought to be rules against that. But, at least, people ought to know what he is doing. In fact we should all know a lot more about what they are all doing along these lines. So many of us are getting fed up with the blatant corruption. It's as if they don't even bother hiding it any more.

  • Craigie on December 10, 2011 11:13 AM:

    That's another reason why student loan forgiveness for congressional staffers is a boondoggle. This was a program enacted in 1990 for federal employees. It took 10 years for the federal Office of Personnel Management to issue a reg. Then, it was hijacked by the legislative branch. Congressional staffs have no trouble hiring. In fact, most have to get their start via unpaid internships. None of legislative purposes of student loan forgiveness apply to congressional staffs. Yet they are taking a huge percentage of the funding.

    Thus, someone can work as a congressional staffer for a few years, get the American taxpayer to erase her student loan debt, and then go work on K Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, if she can't make her student loan payments on a Congressional staffer's salary, she should go into deferment or forbearance until the big K Street payday begins. Another option is to participate in income-based repayment until going to "the private sector."