SHADOW CONGRESS: More Than 170 Former Lawmakers Ply The Corridors Of Power As Lobbyists

June 1, 2010 4:41 am

It’s not exactly breaking news that Washington is stuffed to the gills with lobbyists. One good government group recently tallied 8 lobbyists for every member of Congress during the health-care reform debate. But what doesn’t get as much attention is that, over the last few decades, a vast army of what might be called uber-lobbyists has taken shape in the capital, made up of retiring lawmakers eager to cash in on K Street after a lifetime of making do with public sector salaries.

We’ve compiled a close-to-comprehensive list of former members of Congress currently working on behalf of private interests in Washington’s influence-peddling industry. We count 172 of them — almost one-third the number of current members of Congress.

See an interactive graphic of the Shadow Congress here.

Members of this Shadow Congress — not all of whom are registered lobbyists — hail from 41 of 50 states (Texas has the most, with 17) and they’re almost as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. Some, like Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, were powerful congressional leaders, whose presence on K Street has drawn scrutiny in the past.

But far more are low-profile back-benchers we’d never heard of and we doubt you had either: say, George Hochbrueckner, who served five terms as a New York Democrat, stepping down in 1995, and now works at Nossaman LLP; or Bill Zeliff, a three-term New Hampshire Republican who left Congress in 1997 and is now at the Livingston Group. For these run-of-the-mill lawmakers, it’s not hard to see how a second career based on leveraging their direct knowledge of the legislative process and their cozy relationships with current lawmakers — credentials they never fail to tout on their websites — could seem more appealing than the other options likely on offer: a visiting professorship at the local college, say, or a seat on the board of a smallish company.

By the same token, some of the members of the Shadow Congress are ensconced at brand-name law and lobbying firms like Alston & Bird or Patton Boggs, or they run powerful trade associations. But a surprising number have chosen, essentially, to hang out a shingle, setting up eponymous one- or two-person shops built around their principals’ connections. One firm, Advantage Associates, has taken that concept to a new level, bringing together nine former lawmakers — all white men, four of whom are named Bill — under one roof. As Advantage puts it on their website: “No one knows the way around Capitol Hill better than those who have previously served in Congress.”

You can find an interactive graphic of the Shadow Congress here.

(Research: John Grennan and Derek Hawkins. Graphic: Erik Hinton and Al Shaw. Special thanks to the Center for Responsive Politics.)

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