When he announced his plans a year ago not to seek another term in the Senate, North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan signaled he might like to head over to K Street for some lobbying work.
"I would like to do some teaching and would also like to work on energy policy in the private sector," Dorgan said in a statement at the time.
On Tuesday, Dorgan, a former member of Senate Democratic leadership, realized the latter dream when D.C. law-and-lobbying firm Arent Fox announced it had hired him, along with fellow retiring senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah).
"The combined political and public policy experience of the two Senators deepens the relationships the firm has with its large client base and will serve as a strong platform for expanding the firm's already thriving government relations practice," the firm said in a statement. "In addition, Dorgan will serve as co-chair of the firm's Government Relations Practice along with former U.S. Representative Phil English of Pennsylvania, who joined the firm in 2009."
Dorgan and Bennett said during a conference call with reporters that they had no plans to register as lobbyists, though Bennett added, "I won't say never, because you don't do that." Chris Dodd is the only member of the 111th Congress who has sworn off lobbying work.
Former senators are required to wait two years before they can legally lobby Congress. During that "cooling-off" period, however, they're free to become "senior policy advisers."
"I feel like at this point, people are so cynical already that this is almost to be expected," said Paul Blumenthal, senior writer for the Sunlight Foundation and occasional HuffPost blogger. "This is two former members of the appropriations committee going to an earmark appropriations lobbying firm to use their knowledge of how to slip in money for a local interest to a bill."
The Arent Fox lobbyshop is largely focused on appropriations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Dorgan said he's anxious to use his experience in government in support of good public policy. "Neither Senator Bennett nor I have an interest in working on things we don't support, and that certainly is an agreement we have with the firm," he said. "We're not going to be advising on issues we're not comfortable or not supportive."
Ivan Adler, a headhunter for The McCormick Group, told HuffPost that a former senator is worth a salary of at least $1 million, a huge bump from the $174,000 earned by current senators. "I think the baseline is a million and it's more depending upon the seniority and committees that the guy came from," he said. "Dorgan is a great hire for Arent Fox."
HuffPost asked Dorgan and Bennett what they make of the charge that they're "cashing out" on years of public service.
"Is there anything in the Constitution that forbids me from earning a living?" Bennett said. "I have skills, people want to pay me for my skills, I want to earn a living, and this is the way I do it."
How much money will he be making?
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