Door still revolving between Capitol, lobbyists

16 lawmakers who left in 2008 are working for groups that influence policymakers

ByABC News
April 23, 2009, 12:31 AM

WASHINGTON -- Despite congressional pledges to stop the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry, 16 of the 62 lawmakers who left Congress last year have landed jobs with groups that seek to influence policymakers, a USA TODAY analysis has found.

Former House members are barred from lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving office and former senators must wait two years. But nothing prohibits former lawmakers from immediately starting to advise clients on how to navigate the congressional process, having contacts with administration officials, or working as a state lobbyist.

Those who found work include former Oregon senator Gordon Smith, a Republican who is a senior adviser at the law and lobbying firm, Covington & Burling; former Maryland representative Albert Wynn, a Democrat and senior adviser at Dickstein Shapiro; and former GOP representative Tom Feeney, who is lobbying in his home state of Florida.

Craig Holman of the non-partisan watchdog group Public Citizen said the moves reflect "an utterly failed revolving-door restriction."

"They can't call or visit a congressional office for a lobbying purpose but can do all the work on a lobbying campaign," he said.

Former lawmakers defended their choices.

"You are doing what counselors at law do all the time that is, help people deal with legal situations in which they find themselves," said Smith, who lost his bid for a third term in November. "Some of that involves the judicial branch; some of that involves the legislative branch; some of that, the executive branch."

He declined to reveal his clients but said he is working on international trade and foreign policy. He served on a Senate international trade panel.

Wynn also declined to disclose his clients, but said he is advising them "on how Congress works and strategies or tactics that would be helpful, where information can be obtained, what the timing ought to be of certain activities, who members of Congress are that might be receptive."