By Jay Syrmopoulos
As a member of the U.S. Congress, one can expect to earn a substantial income of $174,000 per year – a very comfortable sum to live on. But it doesn’t stop there, now legislators are frequently using their political careers as a stepping-stone to a much larger payday upon retirement, often quintupling their income as an industry lobbyist.
Three political scientists have tracked data all the way back to 1976 to analyze the lobbying activity of former members of Congress in an eye-opening new study.
The results of the study, “Who walks through the revolving door? Examining the lobbying activity of former members of Congress,” appearing in the journal Interest Groups & Advocacy, make clear that there has been a substantial increase in the number of members becoming lobbyists after retirement.
ssThe data indicates that in the 1970s and ’80s it was extremely rare for Congress members to go on to become lobbyists, as the pay-for-play lobbying system of today was virtually non-existent. In the 1990s, corporate America became particularly skilled at bending the will of the state away from actually representing the people and towards their own nuanced positions through the use of lobbyists — otherwise known as fascism or corporatism.
Today, there is a reported $3.2 billion dollars-per-year spent on lobbying activity, with estimates that there is actually closer to double that amount spend, as only registered lobbyists activities are disclosed.
Congress passed the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 1995 to provide more accountability and transparency, because prior to the legislation being passed the rules for registration as a lobbyist were even more lax. Even after the Lobbying Disclosure Act, many former Congress members simply choose not to register, such as former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), but continue to engage in work virtually identical to that of a registered lobbyist.
Here are some other interesting findings contained within the study:
Retiring members are more likely to become lobbyists if they were party or committee leaders, or they were on the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House or the Senate Finance Committee (which have authority over tax and trade policy — always popular lobbying issues). This is especially true for House members. Backbenchers are less likely to become lobbyists.
Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to go on to become lobbyists.
Very conservative Republicans were less likely to become lobbyists than moderate Republicans.
Most retiring members (78 percent in the House, and 87 percent in the Senate) who became lobbyists went to lobbying firms that represent multiple clients, rather than going in house at a company, association or other group. This makes sense, since former members generally specialize in access, which they can then sell to multiple clients.
The logic behind having former Congress members on staff at a lobbying firm is simply to allow for greater access to the internal workings of government, as these people are intimately connected within the corridors of power.
The revolving door from Congress to K Street gives influence to large corporations that can afford the considerable sums of money required by the former Congress members, evidenced by the fact that for every $1 spent by public interest groups and unions, corporations spent $34.
These dynamics only serve to contribute to an even greater imbalance of representation in Washington, D.C. The select few with money and influence are allowed even greater access to U.S. lawmakers, while the majority of America is left virtually powerless to affect change.
Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations that’ve long since bought and paid for, the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pocket, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and the information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them.
― George Carlin