Revolving door in swanky office building
While obscene amounts of corporate money in congressional campaigns is noxious and toxic to our political system, the actual influence of corporate mouthpieces in Congress, not just lobbying there, but in staff positions there, is a more insidious problem. New reporting from Lee Fang at The Nation shows how bad it is.
Recent disclosures and employment agreements reviewed by The Nation show that current leadership staff to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have received six-figure bonuses and other incentive pay from corporate firms shortly before taking jobs in Congress. In many cases, these staffers are well positioned to influence multibillion-dollar legislation on issues ranging from tax policy to defense, and which impact their previous employers. If government officials turned lobbyists reflect a well-known “revolving door,” paying corporate employees big bucks to leave lucrative posts to take jobs in government reflect a “reverse revolving door.” [...]

Robert Walker, an attorney and former chief counsel to both the House and Senate ethics committees, told The Nation that ethics rules authorize congressional staffers to receive bonuses from prior employers as long as the money is being paid for work previously performed. Such bonuses and other financial awards are ostensibly allowed so long as they have “not been enhanced because of the individual’s congressional employment.”

Uh-huh, and these people are leaving lucrative K Street careers because they want to be poorly paid public servants. The magazine has a few examples of really high-powered lobbyists who've taken power staff positions in Congress.
In January, when Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) became the ranking member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, he hired Ambrose (Bruce) Hock, a Northrop Grumman executive and former lobbyist for the company. Northrop Grumman paid Hock, now a senior staffer with Senate Armed Services, up to $450,000 in bonuses and "long term incentive pay" in March.

In 2011, shortly after assuming the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) hired Tom MacKenzie, a Northrop Grumman executive and former lobbyist for the company, to help oversee the committee. Financial disclosures show MacKenzie was paid a "severance and bonus" of $498,334 from Northrop Grumman, just before he was hired to work in Congress.

David Krone left his senior lobbying position with Comcast to become Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) chief of staff in 2011. In an arrangement The Wall Street Journal described as “unusual,” Comcast paid Krone over $2.9 million dollars in severance and salary, in addition to $1.2 million for the purchase of his Philadelphia condo, which Comcast later sold at a loss.

Fang reports that at least eight major financial firms, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, actually have employment policies that encourage their high-level executives to make the switch to government; encouragement in the form a financial incentives. The best Congress money can buy, with the most expensive staff to write all the bills.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon May 06, 2013 at 03:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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