Ex-Lawmakers Get Good Jobs
WASHINGTON – The Republican congressman who helped regulate the drug industry now works for it. A maverick Democratic senator who derided special interests has signed on with a law firm representing many of them. A former House Republican is president of one of the nation's largest lobbying operations.
Recently retired lawmakers, who would have made $162,100 if they had returned to Congress, are signing on for more lucrative Washington jobs advising clients who crave government contracts or the largess of the annual spending bills, or are determined to ensure a bill's passage or defeat.
In the near term, retired lawmakers must keep their distance. Federal law bans former lawmakers from contacting any congressional office with the intent of influencing official action for one year.
After that, one-time members can get back into the business of Capitol Hill.
The job change that prompted the most chatter was the decision by Billy Tauzin (search), R-La., the former chairman of the House committee that regulates drug makers, to become president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (search).
In the 2002 election cycle, Tauzin received $91,500 from drug companies, the fourth-highest total from the industry to a House member at that time, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (search).
The center, which tracks political donations, said Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, raised $41,500 from pharmaceutical companies in the two-year election cycle that ended last year, even though he was not a candidate for re-election. Since 1997, he has collected $9,000 from his employer's political action committee.
In his new job, Tauzin said he wants to improve the image of drug companies. "They've got to re-earn the trust and confidence of the American public," he said recently.
Former Sen. Zell Miller (search), the Georgia Democrat turned fiery keynote speaker at last summer's Republican National Convention, has joined the international law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge (search).
The firm, with 20 lobbyists, has legal and lobbying clients interested in virtually every issue before Congress: taxes, international trade, homeland security, defense, health policy, agriculture, education, insurance and energy.
During his one term in the Senate, Miller complained that "elected officials are beholden to these special interest groups." His new firm's clients include defense contractor Lockheed-Martin; Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, maker of diabetes products; vaccine maker Aventis Pasteur Inc.; and insurer AFLAC.
The firm reported spending $820,000 for lobbying in the first half of 2004, according to lobbying disclosure records.
Retiring lawmakers are in greater demand than in past years as clients seek an edge in dealing with the congressional process in an era dominated by lobbyists and campaign donations. In return, former members know these employers are willing to pay top dollar.
"It's a match made in heaven, but one that citizens don't feel comfortable with," said Dr. John Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska.
One of the busiest former members will be former Sen. John Breaux (search) of Louisiana. The moderate Democrat will have at least four jobs, including senior counsel at Patton Boggs, the law-and-lobbying firm that was first in lobbying expenditures in the first half of 2004. Patton Boggs spent nearly $15 million, according to FECInfo (search), a company that tracks campaign finance and lobbying spending.
Breaux also will work for two investment firms and co-chair a presidential panel to recommend ways to simplify the tax code.
In the House, Pennsylvania Republican Jim Greenwood (search) was a strong supporter of stem cell research and cloning of cells for medical research. He hopes to continue working on these issues in his new job: president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (search).
Former Rep. Jack Quinn (search), R-N.Y., has assumed the presidency of Cassidy & Associates, a lobbying firm. FECInfo said the $13.2 million spent in the first half of 2004 ranked Cassidy, with 54 lobbyists, third among lobbying firms.
"I hope to help develop new business for them," said Quinn, who specialized in transportation issues in Congress. During the yearlong ban, Quinn said he will "spend most of the first year learning the business."
Don Nickles (search), R-Okla., former chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, struck out on his own, starting a firm that will provide advice to clients seeking to contact Congress or the executive branch.
"I love the private sector and I love public policy," Nickles said in announcing formation of "The Nickles Group." "This is the ideal fusion of the two."
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (search), the Colorado Republican who was the only American Indian in the Senate, has joined the Indian law practice group of Holland & Knight, a global law firm. But his post-congressional career goes beyond the legal life.
Campbell said he plans to help design a line of camping and outdoor gear, continue his jewelry design business and deliver motivational speeches at colleges and universities.