Congressional aides in the U.S. House are supposed to wait at least one year after quitting their jobs to become lobbyists or accept other private sector jobs that utilize their Capitol Hill experience. But many former staffers avoid this restriction by exploiting loopholes in federal rules.
Under regulations revised in 2007 following the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, former senior officials must not become lobbyists within one year of leaving their government post.
And yet, about 1,650 congressional aides have become lobbyists within a year of leaving Capitol Hill, according to The New York Times. At least half of them were able to do so without any restrictions. Many of those private-sector jobs pay six- or seven-figure salaries.
It’s especially easy for House aides to bypass the rules because of numerous exceptions built into the rules, such as:
- · Foregoing pay bumps and keeping their salaries under a certain amount ($130,500, as of last year)
- · Being paid by an individual lawmaker, which allows them to immediately lobby former committee colleagues (something prohibited in the U.S. Senate)
- · Working on a representative’s reelection campaign while still being paid as a lobbyist—allowable because the activity is considered a form of free speech
“Is it any wonder that the public holds such a low esteem for Congress?” Joel M. Hefley, a Republican who served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee before he retired in 2007, told the Times. “You can dance around these rules in so many ways it really does not accomplish much of anything.”
To Learn More:
Law Doesn’t End Revolving Door on Capitol Hill (by Eric Lipton and Ben Protess, New York Times)
Former Congresswoman Sets Revolving Door Speed Record (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov
Revolving Door is Alive and Well with Obamacare, but Takes a Rest at SEC (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The Revolving Door to a Health Care Reform Bill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)