I'd really encourage readers to check out this great piece from Justin Elliot and Zachary Roth over at TPM Muckraker, which documents what the authors term "the Shadow Congress." See, in their ongoing efforts to destroy America, lobbying firms have hired "more than 170 former lawmakers" to skulk around the corridors of power, using their contacts and their intimate awareness of the legislative process to make sure that moneyed interests retain their iron grip on your lawmakers.
Members of this Shadow Congress -- not all of whom are registered lobbyists -- hail from 41 of 50 states (Texas has the most, with 17) and they're almost as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. Some, like Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, were powerful congressional leaders, whose presence on K Street has drawn scrutiny in the past.
But far more are low-profile back-benchers we'd never heard of and we doubt you had either: say, George Hochbrueckner, who served five terms as a New York Democrat, stepping down in 1995, and now works at Nossaman LLP; or Bill Zeliff, a three-term New Hampshire Republican who left Congress in 1997 and is now at the Livingston Group. For these run-of-the-mill lawmakers, it's not hard to see how a second career based on leveraging their direct knowledge of the legislative process and their cozy relationships with current lawmakers -- credentials they never fail to tout on their websites -- could seem more appealing than the other options likely on offer: a visiting professorship at the local college, say, or a seat on the board of a smallish company.
Of particular interest is the aside above, which notes that these days, not every lobbyist has to call themselves a lobbyist. This tactic is called "influence laundering," and the aforementioned Mr. Daschle is in the vanguard of a new innovation in lobbying that will help ensure that the practice is never adequately policed or reformed.
"I've not made a call nor made a visit since I left the Senate on behalf of a client. And I don't have any expectation that I'll do that in the future," Daschle told the New York Times recently.
By claiming that he never picks up the phone on his clients' behalf, Daschle is not legally obliged to declare himself a lobbyist, even if all his work for those clients falls under the general definition of "lobbying activity." That means he can keep his clients' identities and how much they pay him entirely secret.
In December, Daschle starts his new job as a "senior policy advisor" at DLA Piper, a massive law and lobbying firm that represents a range of corporate and foreign government clients. He has said he plans to focus less on health care, his main issue since losing his 2004 re-election bid, and more on international issues.
Even if Daschle refrains from directly contacting former colleagues on his clients' behalf, however, that doesn't mean DLA's lobbying clients won't receive the full benefit of his contacts and expertise, and that those assets can't be used to influence legislation.
For instance: clients of Alston & Bird, the firm Daschle joined in 2005, said this summer that Daschle sometimes advised them "indirectly" through the firm's registered lobbyists. So whatever news Daschle picked up on his many visits to the Hill or to the White House he could pass on to a client by telling one of his colleagues at Alston.
You may have heard of some efforts from lawmakers that would impose a lifetime ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists? Well: ha, ha, this is how you surmount that!
SHADOW CONGRESS: More Than 170 Former Lawmakers Ply The Corridors Of Power As Lobbyists [TPM Muckaraker]
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
How Tom Daschle Lobbies In Secret: Influence Laundering