Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Supply and Demand for Lobbyists

For lobbyists, turnover.


After eight years of the so-called K Street Project — the effort by Republican lawmakers and operatives to pressure companies, trade associations and lobbying firms to hire their fellow Republicans — the tasseled loafer is on the other foot. Companies and interest groups are competing to snap up Democrats. And scarcity has added to their value because so many well-connected Democrats are angling for jobs in the Obama administration, which has promised ethics rules that may block lobbyists from certain jobs. Meanwhile, recently passed Congressional ethics rules restrict the ability of departing Congressional staff members to lobby as well.

“The Democratic market is kind of frozen, while the Republican market is about to be engorged” with former Bush staff members, said Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group, a major lobbying firm.

The starting salaries for former officials tell the story. An assistant department secretary leaving the Bush administration three years ago, with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House, might fetch as much $600,000 to $1 million a year in the influence business, recruiters and lobbyists said. But the same person might now expect less than half as much.

“Don’t be the last guy off the train,” said Peter Metzger, vice chairman of the recruiting firm CT Partners, recalling his advice to government officials considering other work in Washington.

What is the implication of all that lobbyist turnover?

For taxpayers? Congress says, "BEND over; I'll drive."

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