WASHINGTON—Republicans Mike Braun of Indiana and Rick Scott of Florida may be the least popular freshmen with veteran senators, thanks to the duo’s proposal to stop the revolving door taken by hundreds of former legislators to lucrative jobs lobbying former colleagues.
“One of the reasons I left the private sector for Washington was to help President Donald Trump drain the swamp,” Braun said in a joint statement with Scott after introducing the measure Feb. 28, “and we can accomplish this by permanently banning congressmen and senators from lobbying Capitol Hill.”
Braun continued, saying “together, we can end the revolving door of career politicians coming to Washington, spending time in Congress, then enriching themselves from their service to the American people.”
Scott said, “This bill imposes a permanent ban on members of Congress becoming lobbyists. Rather than serving the public, too many in Washington are spending their political careers preparing for a lucrative job at a D.C. lobbying firm where they can cash in on their connections and access.”
The Floridian said, “Congress should never serve as a training ground for future lobbyists, and putting an end to the revolving door is a commonsense way to make Washington work for families.”
An identical version of the measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.). Similar proposals were introduced in the 115th Congress by Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but neither went anywhere in the Republican-led Senate.
A spokesman for Warren said the Massachusetts Democrat, who is an announced candidate for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination, will reintroduce her Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act. No date for the reintroduction has been set, but a companion version has been submitted in the House.
Warren’s proposal is significantly more comprehensive than the Braun/Scott approach, encompassing the lifetime lobbying ban and extending it to include former presidents and federal agency heads.
The Warren measure also includes provisions concerning stock ownership, ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, and “creating a new, independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws.”
The Braun/Scott proposal applies to all current and future members of Congress, but would not affect the more than 400 former senators and representatives now employed as registered lobbyists.
The measure would do nothing to former members involved in “Shadow Lobbying,” a form of legislative advocacy by those who don’t formally register as lobbyists.
Lobbying has long been among Washington’s perennially thriving industries and no more so than among multiple influential law and lobbying firms on K Street that employ dozens of registered and unregistered former senators and representatives who have unobstructed access to the Senate and House floors.
Former lawmakers also retain access to congressional parking, dining and gym facilities, and the resources of the Congressional Research Service. A nominal fee is required for the gym use.
There is even an organization exclusively for former members.
“Of the nearly four dozen lawmakers who left office after the 2016 election, one-fourth stayed in Washington, and one in six became lobbyists,” The Atlantic reported in May 2018.
“The numbers were even higher for those who departed after the 2014 midterms: About half of those former members stuck around, and around one in four became lobbyists,” the magazine said.
Former congressional aides and executive branch officials can also go to lobbying firms after developing important contacts in government, but they can’t match the floor access enjoyed by former legislators.
Besides registered lobbying outfits, top-flight law firms, think tanks, trade associations, and Fortune 500 corporations also often hire former members as rainmakers or consultants.
It’s far from clear, however, that banning former members from lobbying Congress would have more than a cosmetic effect on the nation’s capital.
“I’m not sure it would change much about Washington if that happened,” Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz told The Epoch Times on March 11.
“The revolving door cuts across so many agencies and so many people and interestingly, the members who have gotten in trouble on this were still in Congress, not the ones that have left,” Schatz said. He emphasized that he was speaking for himself and that CAGW has never formally taken a position on the issue.
Schatz also noted that House Democrats approved H.R. 1, a huge bill containing a dozen major reforms designed to clean up government and politics.
“But the Democrats didn’t include this provision, so I understand the motivation, but I’m not all that sure it would be that helpful,” Schatz said.
The House version of Warren’s proposal presently has 10 co-sponsors, so it’s possible both the Republican Senate and Democratic House could have competing versions of lobbying bans at some point during the 116th Congress.