The Congressional Retirement Plan: Some Data Points

A few years ago, I described how money affects Congressional behavior–it’s all about the retirement:

So, Mad Biologist, how is this about money? It’s simple: it’s about life after politics. One of the dirty secrets about many, if not most, congressmen and senators is that they like Washington, D.C., rhetoric notwithstanding. They want to stay in town after they leave (or lose) office. Once you’ve tasted the Capital of the Free World, do you really want to go back to Pierre, South Dakota? (Tom Daschle comes to mind…). It’s funny how many politicians, having made a career out of bashing War-Shing-Tun, don’t…seem…to…ever…leave.

I can’t blame them: I moved to Boston, and would be very happy to stay here. Places do grow on you. The problem comes, for politicians, when they have to find a job. For an ex-politician, there aren’t that many ‘straight paths’ to getting your next job: lobbyist and corporate board member are the easiest and the most lucrative.

But if you get a reputation as someone who opposes large business interests, what chance do you have of getting either of these types of jobs? Sometimes, the quid pro quo is very crude and direct (e.g., Billy Tauzin), but the Village’s political culture makes it clear what is acceptable. One should not be ‘populist’, or, heaven forbid, liberal.

With that, we turn it over to Lee Fang, who examines the careers of some recently retired senators:

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.

The ones who haven’t gone to riches are those who were either liberalish or who bucked their party on occasion (e.g., Sen. Lugar).

Fang titled his post “Six Months After Leaving Office, Most US Senators Already Land Corporate Boards or Lobby Gigs.” Great minds think alike. Amazingly, when I wrote that post several years ago, it circulated far and wide. Apparently, people didn’t realize that was the payoff. It seems this is starting to sink in. Now if only the Very Serious Media would cover this. Though if they did, they might not be considered Very Serious any more….

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