Saturday, February 07, 2015

Tax Loopholes And DC's Most Disgraceful Revolving Door


Yesterday, Justin Amash celebrated Ronald Reagan's birthday with a tweet quoting his hero: "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism." Far be it from me to lionize the right right-wing icon, but on the occasion of his 104th birthday, I found a not completely unrelated celebratory quote (above) from 1985. It could have come from a Barack Obama speech as easily as from a Ronald Reagan speech-- or, even more likely-- from a Bernie Sanders speech.

Lawyers may be the most common job in DC in recent years, but that doesn't mean they're all hustling off to court. Most DC lawyers are negotiators, deal-makers and lobbyists. They range from genuine consiglieres to run-of-the-mill purveyors of corporate bribes to Members of Congress. It gets really messy when so many of these lobbyists-- many looking for more and "better" tax loopholes for their clients-- are former Members of Congress themselves.

This week,, did a quick run-down of 6 men who started 2015 as Members of Congress and are, just a month later, already raking in gigantic cash payoffs as K Street lobbyists. There have been half-assed attempts to tip-toe around regulating this particularly unseemly and virulent form of political corruption but... half assed doesn't work in DC and cashing out as a lobbyist is a perfectly respectable career path among Beltway politicians.
While Washington’s contentious revolving door spins in perpetuum-- allowing a stream of money, influence and access to flow seamlessly between the private and public sectors-- the speed with which these public servants have offered themselves up to big business may raise a few eyebrows.

“It’s not like they were calling up their new employers on the morning of Jan. 5 and asking for a job,” says Russ Choma, a Center for Responsive Politics spokesman. “It would seem very likely that as these lawmakers were still voting on bills and debating policies, they were simultaneously negotiating with lobbying firms whose clients may have a direct interest in these issues.”

By law, ex-House members are required to wait one year before they can officially lobby lawmakers on the Hill, while former senators must wait twice as long. Many, however, are able to work around those requirements at firms by signing on as consultants, counsel and strategic advisors, as a recent analysis by CRP and the Sunlight Foundation shows. That study’s conclusion: “The many loopholes limiting who can lobby whom in Washington and whether that lobbying must be disclosed to the public make a hunk of Swiss cheese look like the Berlin Wall.”
These are the half dozen Members singled out for scrutiny, a bipartisan lot in terms of political parties but, notice, all sleazy careerist conservatives:
• Saxy Chambliss (R-GA)

Title: Partner
Firm: DLA Piper
2014 Lobbying Income: $8 million
Notable Clients: PGA Tour, Royal Bank of Scotland, Pfizer

• Lee Terry (R-NE)

Title: Senior Advisor
Firm: Kelley Drye Warren
2014 Lobbying Income: $3.5 million
Notable Clients: Exxon Mobil, Kroger, Alliance for American Manufacturing

• Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

Title: Senior Legislative Advisor
Firm: Venable LLP
2014 Lobbying Income: $8 million
Notable Clients: Lockheed Martin, Blackstone Group, Verizon

• Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)

Title: Principal
Firm: Squire Patton Boggs
2014 Lobbying Income: $30 million
Notable Clients: Amazon, Goldman Sachs, General Electric

Jim Moran (New Dem-VA)

Title: Senior Legislative Advisor
Firm: McDermott, Will & Emery
2014 Lobbying Income: $4.5 million
Notable Clients: Brewers Association, Trinity Health, Coalition for Fair and Rational Taxation

Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)

Title: Senior Strategic Advisor
Firm: McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP
2014 Lobbying Income: $830,000
Notable Clients: University of Georgia, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Not Bernie Sanders, not Barack Obama, not Ronald Reagan was able to do anything substantial about tax loopholes for the wealthy-- and no one ever will, not while the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street is spinning madly.

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At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reagan was trying to push his "tax reform" (read: reductions for the rich) when he told that quoted whopper of a lie.

I remember when that bill passed. My working-class taxes went up while those of Reagan's wealthy friends dropped.


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