A few months ago, in writing about a fascinating interview between Jack Abramoff and Larry Lessig, we talked about Abramoff’s admission that the best way to “buy” a Congressional staffer was to merely let them know that they had a lobbying job waiting for them “whenever they wanted it.” He noted that, after that, those staffers basically worked for Abramoff more than working for their own elected official. He did also note that it was often much more effective to do this with staffers rather than the elected officials themselves, but clearly it happens all the time with elected officials too.
Republic Report has looked up the details on some former elected officials who became lobbyists and noted that, on average, they got a boost in salaries of 1,452%. Also of note: they can negotiate these deals while still in office and don’t have to tell anyone about them or even reveal what their salaries are. That can lead to clear conflicts of interest that are mostly ignored by the public and the press:
For example, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to bring greater transparency to the derivatives marketplace. Almost as soon as he left office, he joined the board of a derivatives trading company and became an “advisor” to Goldman Sachs. Risky derivative trading exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008, yet we’re stuck under the laws written in part by Gregg. How much has he made from the deal? Were his actions in office influenced by relationships with his future employers?
There’s definitely a lot of fluctuation in how much these former Congressional Reps and Senators make as lobbyists, but it’s clearly a lot more than they were making previously. Here are just a few examples (the article has many more), including our old buddy Chris Dodd:
Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110%.
Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) makes approximately $1.5 million a year as the chief lobbyist for the movie industry. Dodd, who retired from the Senate after 2010, was hired by the Motion Picture Association of America, the lobbying association that represents major studios like Warner Bros. and Universal Studios. Although the MPAA would not confirm with Republic Report Dodd’s exact salary, media accounts point to $1.5 million, a slightly higher figure than the previous MPAA head, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Dodd received about a 762% raise after moving from public office to lobbying.
Former Congressman Steve Largent (R-OK) has made at least $8,815,741 over the years as a lobbyist for a coalition of cell phone companies and related wireless industry interests. Republic Report analyzed disclosures from CTIA-The Wireless Association, the trade group Largent leads. CTIA counts wireless companies like AT&T, HTC, and Motorola as members. Largent left Congress in 2002, when his pay was about $150,000 as a public official. His move to the CTIA trade association, where he earns slightly more than $1.5 million a year according to the latest disclosure form, raised his salary by 912%.
And people wonder why the American public feels that Congress is impossibly corrupt.