Tom Daschle Takes Revolving Door to K Street
Daschle Moving to K Street (WaPo, A17)
Former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), following a bipartisan path blazed by many prominent ex-members of Congress, has moved from Capitol Hill to K Street, joining Alston & Bird as a special adviser in the law firm’s legislative and public policy group. Daschle, 57, the former Democratic leader in the Senate, starts work today providing the Atlanta-based firm’s corporate clients strategic advice on such issues as energy, health care, financial services, tax policy, trade and agriculture. He was recruited by another former Senate leader, Republican Robert J. Dole, 81, who joined the firm as a special counsel in 2003.
Dole said the Democrat would be a valuable asset to the firm even though Congress is run by the GOP these days. “He’s got a lot of friends in the Senate, and I’ve got a lot of friends in the Senate, and, combined, who knows — we might have 51,” Dole joked. “It’s going to work fine. You need some flexibility and diversity. I don’t think any successful firm is all Democrat or all Republican.”
Daschle is merely the latest high-profile former lawmaker to jump to the lucrative world of lobbying and law firm work in what has become an increasing trend. Others who recently made the switch include John Breaux, former Democratic senator from Louisiana who became a senior counsel at Patton Boggs, and W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.), former chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who is the new head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
“The revolving door is just spinning out of control these days,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. Holman said that in the 1970s only about 3 percent of retiring members of Congress wound up in K Street law and lobbying firms. These days, the figure is more like 32 percent, he said, in part fueled by the dramatic increase in pay for such positions.
While it does look rather unseemly for former Members to become high-paid lobbyists, I’ve seen no evidence that they wield any special power in so doing. While it’s likely that Dole and Daschle have an easier time getting on a Member’s schedule than your average K Street lawyer, it strikes me as unlikely that they will get any special favors. As powerful as these men once were, they are no longer in a position to offer anything to a sitting Member. I can’t imagine they’re going to go against the wishes of their constituents or their party leadership out of auld lang syne .