AOC Calls for Ban on Revolving Door as Study Shows 2/3 of Recently Departed Lawmakers Now Lobbyists

Jerri-Lynn here. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists.

The revolving door between “public service” and personal profit is just one of many insidious ways in which money corrupts the US political system, so that public policies overwhelmingly mirror corporate priorities.

AOC and Representative Ted Cruz have often sparred on twitter. So it no one was shocked when her lobbyist tweet drew his quick response. Yet surprisingly, as MartketWatch reports:

Cruz responded: “Here’s something I don’t say often: on this point, I AGREE with @AOC Indeed, I have long called for a LIFETIME BAN on former Members of Congress becoming lobbyists. The Swamp would hate it, but perhaps a chance for some bipartisan cooperation?”

“If you’re serious about a clean bill, then I’m down,” Ocasio-Cortez replied. “Let’s make a deal. If we can agree on a bill with no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc — just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists — then I’ll co-lead the bill with you.”

“You’re on,” said Cruz.

The exchange has been widely reported, in both national media as well as in Cruz’s home state of Texas, where The Texas Tribune reproduced the twitter exchange.

Now, nominally, former senators cannot lobby Congress for two years after leaving office, while former representatives are barred for so doing for a year. But even that flimsy restriction isn’t what it seems. According to Vanity Fair:

But there are loopholes, as former lawmakers can simply call themselves “strategic consultants” who advise lobbyists, but do not directly do any lobbying themselves. While there’s a ban on lobbying Congress, ex-legislators can start lobbying the executive branch immediately—even if they’re lobbying to their former congressional colleagues. Former Rep. Jeff Dunham, who has now turned to lobbying the executive branch, told Politico that “A lot of my closest friends are the people I came in with”—namely, White House honchos Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney (Jerri-Lynn here: emphasis in original).

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer, Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

One of Capitol Hill’s most popular new Democrats on Thursday called for a total ban on the revolving door that allows lawmakers to jump from Congress into K Street lobbying firms as soon as they leave office.

In a tweet, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that former members of Congress “shouldn’t be allowed to turn right around and leverage your service for a lobbyist check.”

“I don’t think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you’ve served in Congress,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “At minimum there should be a long wait period.”

After the Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm elections, 44 federal lawmakers left office. A Public Citizen analysis, released Thursday, found that of those 44, 26 “were working for lobbying firms, consulting firms, trade groups or business groups working to influence federal government activities.”

Among those that made the switch are former Rep. Joe Crowley, the Democrat who Ocasio-Cortez unseated, and former Rep. Mike Capuano, a Suffolk County, Massachusetts Democrat whose progressive credentials weren’t enough to stop now-Rep. Ayanna Pressley from besting him in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Former legislators like Crowley and Capuano came in for criticism from Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. In a statement, Weissman took aim at what the revolving door does to Washington politics.

“No lawmaker should be cashing in on their public service and selling their contacts and expertise to the highest bidder,” said Weissman. “Retired or defeated lawmakers should not serve as sherpas for corporate interests who are trying to write federal policy in their favor.”

“We need to close the revolving door and enact fundamental and far-reaching reforms to our corrupt political system,” Weissman added.

In the study, Public Citizen provides a path toward fixing the problem.

Several pieces of legislation would strengthen these ethics laws for former government officials. The For the People Act (H.R. 1), which passed the House of Representatives in March, enacts sweeping reforms that would raise ethics standards at all levels of government. Importantly, H.R. 1 would define “strategic consulting” as lobbying for former members of Congress, subjecting this activity to the existing revolving door restrictions. The legislation would also bar former executive branch officials from doing “strategic consulting” on behalf of a lobbying campaign as well as making direct lobbying contacts for two years after leaving government service.

But, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out in a series of tweets, there’s more to consider than just banning—or at the least delaying—lawmaker entrance into lobbying firms. The nature of congressional pay and the necessities of the work, Ocasio-Cortez said, make the easy money of lobbying very attractive to members of Congress.

“Keeping it real,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “the elephant in the room with passing a lobbying ban on members requires a nearly-impossible discussion about congressional pay.”

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  1. Chef

    She had me until: “Keeping it real,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “the elephant in the room with passing a lobbying ban on members requires a nearly-impossible discussion about congressional pay.”

    A quick search of the interwebs shows that congresscritters make $174,000 a year + fairly generous benefits.

    Another quick search shows that said salary puts her in the top 10% of US wage earners.

    And she wants a raise?

    How about just banning all lobby-like activity after serving. All of it. That’s the bill. No fillers, riders or pork, That’s it.

    1. PKMKII

      That’s $174,000 a year in a major urban metropolis. More to the point, congressional salaries are a tiny chunk of the federal budget, and them earning a comfortable pay helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll go looking for supplemental income elsewhere and induce conflicts of interest. Essentially, giving those 535 Reps and Senators a cushy salary is an insurance against corruption.

      1. jrs

        in theory, in theory. In reality could any amount of pay we we could realistically offer them (what do they want, a million a year?), compare to what they could get via the revolving door? Because I kind of doubt it.

        The “good pay means less corruption” maybe works for the underpaid sheriff, but does it really mean much compared to the kind of money corruption/bribery could lead to with these people?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Its not a case of saying that the more you pay them the less corruption there is, its a case of saying that the more restrictions you put on their ability to earn money outside their period of office, the more their incomes should be boosted.

          To take a private sector example, if you are hiring someone for a technical role on a rolling 4 year contract, you will expect to pay them far more if part of that contract says that they can’t work for anyone else in their field for several years afterwards. If you put in the contract that they can never, ever work in a related field again, you’d expect to pay enough money to cover their retirement. Thats just reasonable (apart from anything else, you won’t be able to hire anyone well qualified on conditions like that).

          You have to take account that if, say, a doctor or nurse, went for office and won and served for 8 years, they’d almost certainly have to retrain again to work again in their field. If you then prevented them from working in a field related to politics (realistically, the only option for an ex politician is lobbying in some form), then you are putting a potential candidate in a very high risk situation. Undoubtedly people would avoid running for exactly this reason. In some countries, it is compulsory for employers to rehire those who took leave of absence to run for office, although this might not work for some professions.

          Everyone deserves fair treatment in work, including politicians. Its not a case of paying them more, its a case of accepting that the greater the commitment you expect from them, the more protection they have in other respects.

        2. Pespi

          There seems to be something other than financial gain too, they just like the tickling of the courtiers’ feathers on their feet. At least, that is, if you go by the petty numbers they sell their country out for, in comparison to maximal gain the most self dealing person could get out of the position.

          You have to destroy the “”Norm”” of serving the opposition to public interest as the other half of the coin of being elected to public office

      2. Scott1

        Instead of nation wide write downs of property mortages concurrent to write downs of rent we will likely see raises for those active in politics in Washington DC.

        Nothing is to disturb the wealth flow associated with the cost of shelter. We do not even get the traditional protections of the medieval landlord of the feudalist state.

        Meantime I have tweeted toward AOC that since Ted Cruz has little to lose attaching himself to AOC and, And since the GOP acts in the name of Trump & the Bad Faith Presidency
        she needs to demand he become a Democrat to prove he is acting in Good Faith.

        1. MichaelSF

          Are you sure that what the Democratic Party needs is yet another far-right Republican switching from R to D? They already have a lot of former R’s that have switched, and that is in addition to all the Blue Dogs D’s that are D “in name only”.

    2. False Solace

      The less we pay politicians the cheaper it is for corporate elites to bribe them. That’s a big reason why the bloated salaries and bonuses of the executive class are so corrupting. And it’s why in Singapore government officials are paid quite well.

      “Prior to a salary review in 2011, the Prime Minister’s annual salary was S$3.07 million [about $2m USD], while the pay of ministerial-grade officers ranged between S$1.58 million and S$2.37 million.” (Wikipedia)

  2. Jesper

    The most valuable item that the former lawmakers have is their connection to the lawmaking process and the people working in the lawmaking process. There will always be people willing to cash in no matter the salary when working or the pension afterwards. Sure, provide enough to have a good life but how much money is enough for the kind of people there?
    Banning lobbying contacts but allowing non-lobbying contacts? How would that be done? I suppose the surveillance state might be able to do it but I suspect if they could do the surveillance then it is probably very illegal and not something that would be said to be possible….

    Would it be possible to ban them from the city they used to work in? I.e. no former lawmaker allowed to set foot in Washington on penalty of federal prison? No former banking regulator allowed to set foot in New York etc?
    Since we appear to be living in the time of aristocracy maybe we could use the same strategies/tactics as the kings/queens did when they wanted to limit the influence/power of aristocrats? Ban them from the halls/sites of power, the names of the sites/halls of power are different but the principle would be the same :)

  3. disillusionized

    Not a fan of AoC, but it’s pretty clear she isn’t saying she wants a raise, but rather that she thinks it’s unavoidable to get it to pass through Congress.

  4. XXYY

    “Congressional representative” is a strange job. Once you’re out, you can’t get another position in the same line of work. I can see the attraction of taking a lobbying gig; it’s the path of least resistance to a paycheck, and I’m sure you can rationalize that “you deserve it.”

    I’m not disagreeing with AOC that the practice is corrosive, but I can see why it’s popular.

  5. TroyMcClure

    Lee Fang had a great response pointing out that these rules simply drive lobbying underground. Most lobbyists are unregistered anyhow. Just more theater and chasing those likes/faves from AOC. Disappointing how she’s turning out.

    The REAL solution is always staring us in the face. Hard cap on income at around $1million per year. With something sensible like that in place these people wouldn’t waste their golden years schmoozing for Raytheon.

    1. lighter

      Inflation must be out of control but I would work to my grave while making $1million/year. It’s not like lobbyists (or anyone with those cushy jobs) work that hard anyway, unless you count 2 martini lunches as “work”.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Drive it* underground.

      Human nature….take for example, drinking alcohol. Some though Prohibition was a good idea. Then, it was, you can’t stop it, but only hope to contain it.

      The same with unwanted teenage pregnancy – we can’t stop it completely, but we have to educate our kids.

      We hope to minimize whatever damage our human nature inflicts.

      Can we ban greed? That’s for religions to work out, I guess…non-attachment to money….aummmmmmmmmm…

      *Didn’t Trump demand something similar of people serving in his administration? Did he follow through?

    3. False Solace

      > Disappointing how she’s turning out.

      It’s so mysterious how people vaguely dislike AOC with no details, while silently eliding the 24/7 hate against her all over right wing media. She’s popular and a good communicator, therefore a gloryhound who chases tweets. She’s young, female, Latina and good looking, and let’s be clear those are automatic negatives for many.

      Besides that, AOC is a member of a team. In our society there are 2 teams. You are required to hate at least one team. You’re welcome to hate both teams, but this will lock you out of electoral relevance if you’re sincere (most people are not, they secretly root for one team). The mass media ruthlessly enforces hatred against one team or the other.

      It’s WWE for people who think they’re smart because they pay attention to politics.

      Voters don’t have parties, they have interests. It would be foolish to dismiss a politician who might be useful on a topic just because they like to tweet or belong to the wrong group.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        If I had a dollar for every concern trolling “Well I used to like AOC but her position on XYZ made me think again”, I could hire some lobbyists of my own.

      2. Phenix

        She has backed down to the Israeli lobby and gave tepid support to Omar after she was smeared as an anti-Semite. I think the roll out the GND was lacking. She has a way of making everything about her. Her natural instincts are to use emotion when making arguments and is does not have to respond to progressive critiques of her. There are many. A Warren endorsement will kill her credibility with a large amount of people who put her in power.

        1. jrs

          This Warren endorsement nonsense was based on a completely non-credible right wing website, are we just going to repeat right wing garbage and pass it around? Maybe she sometimes tweets in support of Warren or her proposals. I don’t personally know about that or not as I’m not often on twitter. And what if she does, maybe it’s just support for policy, which Warren cranks out.

          Now if she decides to endorse Warren that is her prerogative I guess, but as it is it is presently pure speculation.

          It’s hard to say what to really criticize AOC for since she has very little actual power is the truth of it. So she can make proposals but not implement them it seems to me. So what should she do differently? Could she somehow amplify whatever power she does have beyond a mouthpiece? The GND was taking quite a stance. Does it seem lacking in specifics, yea as far as I’ve seen.

    4. Oh

      I’m surprised you’re disappointed with AOC. She’s so much better than 99% of the DImRats who’re screaming “Russia, Russia and war with Venuzuela” when they’re not busy collecting bribes and voting for Trump’s nominees. In the short time she’s been in COngress she’s come up with several solid proposals in spite of Pelosi and gang.

  6. Hopelb

    During the Obama administration, our “reps” quietly overturned the ban on insider trading. Perhaps AOC will get Cruz on board stopping that as well?

  7. Synoia

    Should we, the public, pay Congresspeople $1 Million per year, Senators $5 million per year, and publicly fund elections?

    Do we, the public, need to buy our representatives loyalty to completely eliminate the hidden bribes called “election contributions?”

    At federal, state and local levels?

    1. jrs

      maybe it would buy their loyalty. It would also guarantee that they are 100% of touch with the concerns of their constituency, but being that that already seems to be the case, that they are already all millionaires … maybe no difference there.

  8. WheresOurTeddy

    After their “Cheap Jew Bernie and His Money Tree” stunt, I’m just waiting for Politico’s dog whistle tweet about pushy Puerto Ricans now

    1. rob

      If that person has interests and wins an election, so what? he will be one of many in a place where singular voices mean nothing, without the army of fellow “pushers” all pushing in the same direction; one person is just one person. the piles of money and gifts do more to sway a group of people than one person or or their opinions.

  9. rob

    The constitution may say people can lobby congress…. that is what is always said when people want to fend off criticism of lobbyists.
    I have the RIGHT to lobby congress… right. so does anyone else.
    I think one step in fighting the inequality money has in lobbying congress is to ban the profession of lobbying.
    People can lobby all they want, but who says they ought to be allowed to be paid for doing so?
    Why not write a law that criminalizes people getting paid for lobbying? In most places, sex is legal, but getting paid for it is a crime… obviously it won’t stop things… but it could throw a monkey wrench into the gears. Make them scramble. burn down k-street. How will they expense out all the bribes? all the vulgar gifts,meals,trips,etc not being allowed on tax returns? no cushy jobs talking to people. no expenditures of hotels and air fare…. everything done to “lobby” , must be done on your own dime…. Kiss that industry good-bye. If charles koch wants to lobby something, let him get his fanny on a plane and go ask for it…. but that army of groups all funded, and paying bribes in every fashion no longer have the backstop of being considered a legitimate business.
    After all, the lobbying industry serves no useful function. It is all lies and deceit. all for profit to corporations, and their billionaire owners…
    This would just be one step in evening out the playing field…. ending the revolving door by pushing them back into the sewers , where they belong.
    It’s just a thought anyway

  10. Bill Michtom

    $174K seems adequate. Plus, I don’t think senators get or deserve more than reps.
    The issues that take money are
    1. Maintaining two homes & traveling between them.
    2. Staff (who would live in/near DC)
    3. Other normal job benies.

    None of these things require $$$ going to the individual. Housing could be covered by a standard amount to each person. Travel could also be a standard based on distance from DC & current transport costs.

    Another possible way of handling housing could be housing specifically for Congress folk. If you want to spend more from your own resources, go for it, but that might alienate you from some colleagues as well as isolate you from conversations over dinner at Congress Critter Arms.

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