For the last class of US senators to leave office, through retirement or losing their seats in an election, the majority have already cashed by taking lucrative positions on corporate boards or at lobbying-related firms. Senate ethics rules prohibit ex-senators from lobbying their former colleagues or staff members for two years. But that hasn’t prevented many from joining companies where they can advise their business clients on how to win political, policy or regulatory campaigns.
Here’s a run-down of the recent swings through the revolving door:
• Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) joined law-lobbying firm Bracewell & Giuliani shortly after retiring, where she said she will “focus on advising clients on the regulatory process, legislative attitudes and the likelihood of government action.” Earlier this month, she joined the advisory board of corporate PR powerhouse Fleishman-Hillard where she will “provide direct counsel on a wide range of issues that are important to clients.” Fleishman-Hillard’s clients include the government of Singapore and NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. She is also on Bank of America’s Global Advisory Council.
• Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) joined the law-lobbying firm Covington & Burling shortly after retiring in January. Some of Covington’s largest lobbying clients include Qualcomm Inc., Chiquita Brands International and Microsoft.
• Senator Joe Liberman (I-CT) joined the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman help advise clients on public policy and regulatory issues.
• Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) joined the law-lobbying firm of Nixon-Peabody to work on “business and governmental affairs as they relate to the financial services industry as well as on commercial real estate matters.” He is now on the board of Kadant Inc., a pulp and paper company.
• Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) became the CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a trade association that coordinates efforts among state insurance regulators. Earlier this year, he joined the public affairs firm Agenda as well.
Several have also joined corporate boards in recent months. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) joined the board of T. Rowe Price last week, where she is estimated to earn between $238,923 and $309,618. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) joined the board of Genworth Financial, a life insurance company.
In addition, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who retired shortly after the 2012 elections, has an advocacy job with the Heritage Foundation that pays over $1 million a year. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), who left the Senate after one term, is now a consultant.
For now, the exceptions to the list include Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Herb Kohl (D-WI), all of whom have gone into academia or less self-enriching forms of retirement.
As I’ve reported before, disclosed salary listings show lawmakers who go to take lobbying jobs can earn several millions dollars. The greatest danger here is that members of Congress make decisions while in office—like weakening regulations or preserving corporate tax loopholes—in anticipation that their official actions will earn them more money on K Street or a corporate board when they retire.