As a class of newly elected members of Congress prepare to swear their oath as public servants, another class, of those retiring this term, are taking private pledges in the office towers dotting downtown Washington, DC. Those pledges, employment contracts to lobby their former colleagues on behalf of corporate interests, have become an increasingly biennial traditional for both parties.
Yesterday afternoon, Duke Energy, the coal-fueled utility company based in North Carolina, sent out a press release stating that they are “pleased” to announce that Congressman Health Shuler will be “joining our team in Washington.” He will lead the company’s federal government affairs (i.e., lobbying) efforts.
It should be no surprise that Shuler, a prominent Blue Dog conservative Democrat who chose to skip re-election after Republicans gerrymandered his district, is among the first to reveal his new gig as an influence peddler. Another top Blue Dog, Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas, is one of the only other sitting lawmakers this year to already make public his plans to head into lobbying.
Earlier this year, I helped found the corruption watchdog blog Republic Report to keep an eye on the influence industry and its corrosive effect on policy. Back in July, following reports that Shuler had begun negotiating for a job on K Street while still serving in office, and setting policy that could impact his future employers, my former colleague Zaid Jilani, now the PCCC’s lead blogger at The Daily Change, and I asked him about his plans.
He bluntly told us that “no,” he is not seeking a job as a lobbyist. But, the former Redskins quarterback did inform us that he planned to “Have a better job than you guys” (emphasis added):
FANG: It’s been reported a month or two ago that you’re already negotiating for a lobby job because you’re retiring this year
SHULER: Ha! No, I’m on the phone with my wife.
FANG: But you’re not even negotiating with the Majority Group, or any of these other lobbying firms on K Street?
SHULER: Nope. You read it wrong, buddy. […] Rob worked for me; Walt was my colleague. I can have a conversation with them if I want to.
FANG: Are you planning to become a lobbyist?
JILANI: What do you plan to do after you retire?
SHULER: Have a better job than you guys have, that’s for sure.