Revolving Door Spins Both Ways

When Democrats were running against the “culture of corruption” that plagued the Republican-led Congress last fall, they often cited the “revolving door” through which Congressmen and their staffs left for lucrative jobs as lobbyists and lobbyists came to Capitol Hill to help write legislation.
Shockingly, the Democratic takeover of Congress has not ended the influence of special interest groups over the political process.

Susan Crabtree reports for The Hill:

When Republicans were considering a lobbying reform bill last year, Pelosi advocated extending the so-called revolving-door ban, which currently prevents members and aides from lobbying for one year after they leave the Hill. But early this year, House Democrats dropped a provision from their lobbying reform bill that would have extended the revolving-door ban for members to two years after veteran Democratic members balked at the language. The Senate version includes such an extension, and that difference will be a sticking point when the two bills go to conference.

Why this change of heart?

At least 19 senior aides for the House Democratic leadership and committee staffs left lucrative K Street jobs to work for the new House majority this year, and some of them now have direct jurisdiction over the industry or interest group they represented, according to an analysis of lobbying and financial disclosure records.

Now, those cited in the story took major pay cuts to come back to the Hill. They did so eagerly, they said, for the chance to make a difference and for the sheer exhilaration that comes with being intimately involved in making public policy.

You know what? I believe them.

I’m sure many people take jobs, especially very junior ones, in politics to make connections so that they can cash in as lobbyists. There’s occasionally legitimate concern about conflict of interest, as when a senior decision-maker on an acquisitions program suddenly finds himself with a job with the winner. Most of the time, though, it’s just a matter of paying dues.

Conversely, people coming from the private sector to the public sector do so for many reasons. Most probably truly enjoy the chance at public service and to work with bright, enthusiastic people at the center of the political process. At the same time, though, they’re making contacts and gaining experiences which will often give them a boost on the outside.

Making laws that prevent people from coming back and forth are not only, as the article notes, very difficult to write without creating loopholes, but they’re likely to create more harm than good. There’s not much incentive for the best and brightest to take low paying jobs in government service if doing so will preclude them making a good living after paying their dues. Similarly, keeping those “evil lobbyists” off Congressional staff simply will deny lawmakers the advice of some of the most knowledgeable people on the issues.

via Bruce McQuain

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I was scratching my head at this story. Ex-lobbyists are working on legislation. So? Ultimately representatives have to vote on them. They’re the ones responsible for the bills. There might be some public choice logic I’m missing, but I don’t see the problem of hiring people who are knowledgeable.