Former members of the 113th Congress have embarked on various new adventures since their defeats, retirements or departures for other reasons: Some are teaching, others are pondering away at think tanks, a couple are embedded in corporate culture, a few are even enjoying their freedom and sleeping a little later every morning.
Not surprisingly, though, many of these former House and Senate members have found new perches on K Steet at lobbying firms large and small.
CRP’s revolving door data, which we will continue to update, shows that 42 of the 75 who left Capitol Hill at the end of the last Congress or sometime during that two-year term are currently employed — 18 of them by lobbying firms or law firms that also lobby.
They include, among others, former Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who lost his bid for re-election and is now a “strategic advisor” at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck; Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), one of only two incumbent GOP House members to lose his seat in the 2014 Republican wave and now a senior adviser at Kelley, Drye & Warren; and Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who were both poached by powerhouse firm Squire Patton Boggs. Matheson retired, while Kingston lost his bid for a Senate seat to David Perdue (R).
In an interview with OpenSecrets Blog, Matheson described his current role as “building client relationships and offering strategic advice” during the cooling-off period when he can’t directly lobby Congress (that’s one year for former House members, two years for former senators) — while also noting that he “can still interact with executive branch agencies.”
Asked about the fact that so many former lawmakers are now at firms seeking to influence Congress on behalf of paying clients, Matheson defended the practice. Lobbying is “a very regulated and transparent industry,” Matheson said. “[F]ormer members have a perspective to bring to the table in terms of navigating the public policy process.” He added that the cooling-off period is appropriate both “substantively and for the optics.” (For a rundown of former members whose cooling-off periods ended at the start of the 114th Congress, see our project with the Sunlight Foundation.)
One former House member snared a gig as the head of something called the Better Medicare Alliance — not a lobbying firm, but a group that is all about influencing Capitol HIll. Allyson Schwartz, who made a bid last year to be governor of Pennsylvania but lost in the Democratic primary, became president and CEO of the group, which was formed by health insurance companies to try to stave off scheduled cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.
Robert L. Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director on both the House and Senate Ethics Committees and currently of counsel at Wiley Rein, is not surprised by the post-congressional career path chosen by many of these former members. “It used to happen, it does happen, and will continue to happen,” Walker told the Blog. He added that each shift should occur “in an appropriately transparent and ethical way…that’s always been the challenge.”
Others who are recovering from their service in the House and Senate are making use of their subject matter expertise in ways that don’t appear to involve lobbying or lobbying-ish activities. Former House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), for example, is now a senior education advisor at Cengage Learning, a provider of online educational services; former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is using his familiarity with the tax system as a senior policy advisor at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Both Miller and Camp retired from Congress, but defeat is no obstacle to big paychecks in the private sector, as proven by onetime House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), whose loss in Virginia’s GOP primary was one of the most unexpected outcomes of 2014. Cantor is now a vice chairman and managing director at investment banking firm Moelis & Co.
An eclectic mix of former lawmakers landed at think tanks or nonprofits. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a former physician, is at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, and Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), who played 14 seasons in the NFL, became chairman of the board at the Wish Upon a Hero Foundation; neither Coburn nor Runyan ran for re-election. A West Virginia duo consisting of former Rep. Nick Rahall (D) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) are focusing on more global issues: Rahall, who lost his seat in November after serving 19 terms, is on the board of directors of the World Affairs Council, while Rockefeller, who retired, is at the Council on Foreign Relations as a distinguished fellow.
And then, of course, there are former Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and John Kerry, who were awarded plum public sector positions. Baucus, of Montana, has been U.S. Ambassador to China since early last year. Kerry, who represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1985, served just a few weeks in the 113th Congress before becoming Secretary of State.
Whatever the former members of the 113th have to say about their service in Congress, one thing seems pretty clear: Capitol Hill is not a bad stepping stone to future employment.
Alex Lazar is the summer 2015 reporting intern for OpenSecrets Blog. He is a graduate of George Washington University. His previous articles have been published by various news organizations including The Hill, ABCNews.com and The Huffington Post.
This article first appeared in OpenSecrets.org. Click here to go to the original.