Thursday, March 22, 2012

Republican Congressman On The Revolving Door: "People Need To Serve And Go Home"


Last cycle conservative Republican Scott Rigell benefited from the Blue Dog Apocalypse, as freshman Blue Dog Glenn Nye was puked on by his Democratic supporters. Nye had been first elected in 2008 with 141,857 votes (52%) against Republican incumbent Thelma Drake by promising a vaguely progressive agenda. As soon as he got into the House he joined the Blue Dog caucus and melded his congressional office into another outpost of corporate hegemony and lobbyist dominance of our government. His voting record was putrid and largely supportive of the GOP's 1% agenda; he earned his defeat. Just two years after his victory, only 43% of the district's voters went for him-- a dismal 70,591... a startlingly 71,266 fewer voters than the number voting for him in 2008. He lost of 50% of his support!

Rigell has been an even worse congressman, a lockstep reactionary who almost never veers away from the extremist anti-family positions espoused by Eric Cantor, only too happy to vote to end Medicare and Medicaid and to vote against women's rights and against anything smacking of equality and in favor of the GOP's phony vision of "freedom" (which always comes down to the freedom of the rich and powerful to exploit the rest of us without government interference). So it was kind of odd this week when Lee Fang posted the video above at Republic Report with a story about how Rigell was proposing that anyone elected to Congress should be barred from lobbying... for life.

You may recall that about a month ago we talked briefly about how another Republican freshman, Bill Posey of Florida, suggested that no Member of Congress should be allowed to lobby for 5 years after retiring or being defeated. We suggested a few days later that if an ex-Member of Congress becomes a lobbyist-- ever-- he or she should automatically forfeit all pension benefits. After all, why should taxpayers be underwriting their ability to make our lives worse?

And Zaid Jilani, also at Republic Report and also on this beat, brought to light an article from the Salt Lake Tribune that highlights the ethics abuses inherent in lax or nonexistent governance of revolving door issues between corporate predators and their lobbyists and government officials.
The Tribune interviewed former Sen. Mike Dmitrich (D), who was the minority leader in the House and Senate at different points during his career. After retiring in 2008, he became a lobbyist just months later (the official cooling off period wasn’t enacted into law until 2009). He lobbies for clients such as AOL (based in Washington, D.C.) and Utah’s Phoenix Capital Management. He explained that the reason he became a lobbyist is because he’s like a “drug addict” to the legislature, and he can’t “quit cold turkey.” He then went on to say that he is always lobbying for taxpayer cash, which makes him “no different” than advocates for education:

“After 40 years, like a drug addict, you can’t quit cold turkey, so I’m kind of going through a four-year withdrawal,” Dmitrich said. “Someone asked me what I miss about the Legislature and I jokingly said the parking spot and the chair.” [...]  ”You are always lobbying for money,” said Dmitrich, who successfully lobbied for funding for the Utah Shakespeare Festival this year. “Money is the issue, and we’re no different as lobbyists as someone else [who] is an advocate for education.”

And as Fang reminded his readers this week, "Members of Congress taking jobs on K Street can expect paydays of several hundred thousands; sometimes millions. They are valuable for the lobbying industry because they help gain access, provide insider information, and they often trade policy for pay before they leave office. An analysis by Republic Report found that out of the few lawmakers-turned-lobbyists who have been forced to disclose their salaries, they received over a 1,400% pay raise on average."

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