At least 176 former members of Congress have become lobbyists or taken some other role trying to influence their former colleagues and other parts of the federal government since 2011, according to a report by OpenSecrets issued Thursday.
OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics, found that the use of the revolving door between Congress and the private sector was about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
But the lawmakers who left the Capitol at the end of last year and moved quickly into the influence industry are mostly in the GOP. That's mainly because the wave of departures, either voluntary or forced by the voters, was disproportionately Republican following the Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election.
Most of these former members were hired by K Street lobbying firms or major law firms, the report found. Squire Patton Boggs and Akin Gump each have hired five former members since the 111th Congress ended in 2010.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Miller is president of the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics and principal of the lobbying firm Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies.
Attacking lobbyists isn't a new phenomenon, it's been happening for decades. It happens every election cycle when candidates troll for cash and votes. It happens when Washington is gridlocked. It's an easy way for some to dodge the hard questions from constituents about why things aren't getting done in D.C. It's easier to simply blame those damn special interests for shutting down the process than it is to explain your own actions.
What's new is the growing intensity against everyone's right to petition their government — even if it means playing fast and loose with the Constitution. I get that a lot of this is for the public and ensuring candidates get elected.
The problem with that belief is that we are a social-media-driven society that can quickly turn fake news into real news (or reality) within minutes. The concerning part isn't the words, but how quickly the information is shared and how little facts play into it being viewed as truth.
Iowa, Maryland and now North Dakota stand out as the states with the hardest brakes on the revolving door between their legislatures and their lobbyists.
That's the assessment of Public Citizen, whose new national study of the rules in all 50 states finds most are tougher or better enforced than what's on the books at the federal level.
The prominent watchdog group is among those hoping to change that — in part by shining new light on the places where it sees ethical governance promoted above special interests' influence.
The limited way that Washington restricts the flow of people from Capitol Hill and the executive agencies down to K Street (and oftentimes back again) is maddening to advocates for a more open and cleaner government — and was raised to new national consciousness by Donald Trump and his "drain the swamp" campaign mantra of 2016.