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Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Cliff Stearns Join Lobbying Firms As Senior Advisers

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REPUBLICAN LOBBYISTS
Senate Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) questions a witness during a hearing Dec. 10, 2009, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) | Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Two recently retired senior Republican members of Congress have joined lobbying firms as senior advisers, offering their years of experience on Capitol Hill to help clients navigate the political and regulatory landscape.

Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) will join the firm Bracewell Giuliani, where former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is a partner. Former Republican House member Cliff Stearns (Fla.) has also joined a lobbying and public affairs firm, APCO Worldwide. Hutchinson retired in 2012, while Stearns lost a Republican primary election by about 1% of the vote in the 2012 election.

Hutchinson's husband, municipal bond lawyer Ray Hutchinson, already works at Bracewell Giuliani, and firm chairman Patrick Oxford was a campaign manager for a number of Sen. Hutchinson's political campaigns.

A press release by the firm said Hutchinson will be "a senior counsel" at the firm, where she will "advise clients in banking, energy, telecommunications and transportation." Hutchinson knows these sectors well. Over ten years in the Senate, Hutchinson rose to occupy the top Republican spot on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

For a retired senator to move to a law firm after leaving the Senate is common -- the pay is usually in the mid-six figures, and it's a way to make the most of a career's worth of contacts. But for Hutchinson, who said in 2011 that she was considering a run for president, the move could prove awkward should she choose to pursue a candidacy.

Stearns, who represented Ocala, Fla., in the House for 24 years, will serve as a "senior adviser and member of the company's International Advisory Council," at APCO, according to a press release.

APCO lobbyists have represented a handful of controversial clients in the past, including Phillip Morris in 1993 and the government of Kazakhstan from 2008-2010.

Neither Hutchinson nor Stearns will formally register as lobbyists due to the lobbying ban on recently retired members of Congress, which lasts one year for House members and two years for senators. Instead, Hutchinson and Stearns will advise their firms' clients on how to navigate Congress and government. Lobbying technically includes direct contact with legislators -- like a phone call. Advising companies on how to lobby is not considered lobbying.

By joining a law firm as a non-lobbying government affairs adviser, rather than an out-and-out lobbyist, Hutchinson is in the company numerous ex-senators, including Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Earlier this year, Bennett, who retired in 2010, had harsh words for the lobbying ban as he prepared to register as a lobbyist the day his two-year ban was over. "Lobbying is a constitutionally sanctioned activity, right in the First Amendment next to the freedom of the press," Bennett told his hometown paper. "I don't see any reason why I shouldn't exercise my constitutional rights."

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