By Dan Eggen
Friday, June 4, 2010; A14
Even for Washington, the revolving door between government and Wall Street spins at a dizzying pace. More than 1,400 former members of Congress, Capitol Hill staffers or federal employees registered as lobbyists on behalf of the financial services sector since the start of 2009, according to an exhaustive new study issued Thursday.
The analysis by two nonpartisan groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Responsive Politics, found that the "small army" of financial lobbyists included at least 73 former lawmakers and 148 ex-staffers connected to the House or Senate banking committees. More than 40 former Treasury Department employees also ply their trade as lobbyists for Wall Street firms, the study found.
Some of the biggest names highlighted in the study include former Senate majority leaders Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.); former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Texas) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.); and former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Ex-Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) has the largest number of financial-services clients of any former lawmaker, representing 13 companies and groups, including Deloitte, Ernst & Young and the Real Estate Roundtable, the report shows. The revolving door is evident in almost every major issue that comes before Congress, from regulation of the coal industry to the auto industry to the health-care sector. But the sheer scale of the overlap within the financial sector is remarkable: For every sitting member of Congress, the study shows, there are three former colleagues or government staffers lobbying for banks.
David Arkush, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, said "Wall Street hires former members of Congress and their staff for a reason," especially at a time when lawmakers are debating a historic overhaul of the way Wall Street does business. "These people are influential because they have personal relationships with current members and staff," Arkush said. "It's hard to say no to your friends, but that's what Congress needs to do."
"Companies pay a premium for lobbyists who've spun through the revolving door because it can be a small price to pay relative to the huge payoff if they can shape legislation," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "These lobbyists tap insider knowledge and personal relationships, knowing that their old friends and former co-workers won't want to let them down."