Today's tale of revolving Capitol Hill-to-K Street-and-Back Again is ably presented by T.W. Farnam in the Washington Post and can be broken down by the numbers. Here's a taste: Former Capitol Hill staffers who've left the halls of power to ply their trade in the halls of influence over the past decade: 5,400. Number of lawmakers who've done the same over the past ten years: 400. And lobbyists on the rebound? According to a new report from LegiStorm, which Farnam is detailing, the number of K Streeters who returned to the Hill over the same timeframe is 605.
But here's the quote in Farnam's report that I found particularly eye-popping:
"For every person the American people have elected to sponsor legislation of public benefit, special interests have more than one former legislative advocate now working on the inside in Congress," said Jock Friedly, founder of LegiStorm. "That represents a large network of people to influence decisions and to provide valuable intelligence."
Ever get the feeling that your interests are just outnumbered and outgunned? Well, this is part of the reason you feel that way. And let's recall that when a particular bill earns the spotlight in Congress, lobbyists come like moths to the flame. Remember back when Congress was wrangling over health care?
For every lawmaker in Congress, there are about six lobbyists pushing their health care priorities, according to a Bloomberg News investigation released today. That's about 3,300 registered health care lobbyists working Capitol Hill, hoping to put a bug in the ear of 100 senators and 435 congressmen.
This is why you should expect the next big lobby-swarm story to revolve around the workings of the deficit reduciton super committee, who will be prospecting within a rich vein of special interests. As Alex Seitz-Wald reports, at least one super committee member, John Kerry (D-Mass.), has sworn off lobbyists and fundraisers during the period of time he'll be super-committeeing, but that leaves 11 other opportunities. The money quotes in Seitz-Wald's piece are: "The 12 Members of the Super Committee are going to be lobbied so hard in the next four months, they will be known as the 'Dirty Dozen,'" (from a Republican lobbyist) and "[I'm] preparing by writing 12 really large checks" (from a Democratic lobbyist). So, those guys are only off by one lawmaker and one check, respectively. (Naturally, John Kerry will be free to be influenced by lobbyists again once the super committee concludes its work.)
Should the average citizen feel aggrieved by any of this? Tony Podesta -- who coincidentally runs the Podesta Group ("one of Washington's most prominent lobbying firms") -- doesn't think so, so calm down! He tells Farnam, "People who are experienced in Washington tend to be better at doing this kind of work than people who have never worked in the government before." Which would tend to make "the government" sound like a hyper-functional place, just purring along, success after success, riding high on the collective body of "experience" that's on hand.
And yet, Congressional job approval is at a meager 15 percent, for some reason.
Revolving door of employment between Congress, lobbying firms, study shows [Washington Post]
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