In Washington, Nov. 8 won’t just decide who will occupy the highest office in the land.
The election will also determine how hundreds of staffers at federal agencies and Senate and House offices will make a living come January.
And that means it’s high season for hiring partners at lobby firms, trade groups and corporations, who are looking to snap up well-connected Capitol Hill and administration staffers to better position themselves to lobby incoming congressional leadership and the new administration.
Washington’s revolving door is constant. But the movement between the public and private sectors immediately following a presidential election is particularly fast and furious — especially when a new president is coming in and one chamber in Congress is expected to flip.
“It’s coming into what I’d like to describe as Christmas time for headhunters,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter for lobbyists at the search firm McCormick Group. “It’s going to be musical chairs of biblical proportions.”
Lobby firms love to tout the hiring of senators and House members who retire or lose their re-election, even though ex-members have a lackluster reputation for generating business — with a few notable exceptions like former Sens. John Breaux, Trent Lott and Blanche Lincoln. But the most sought-after and valuable hires are often not household names, but rather senior staffers who worked on key congressional committees that are expected to craft important legislation or investigate corporate malfeasance.
Most of the action downtown won’t pick up until Nov. 9, said leaders of lobby shops.
“Consulting firms are probably holding off on hiring until after the election and they know what the market looks like,” said Stewart Verdery, a Republican lobbyist who runs the lobby firm Monument Policy. “There’s not going to be much movement in the next couple weeks. After the election, there will be tremendous movement because people go from downtown to the administration or onto the Hill. A lot of Hill people’s bosses [will] have lost or retired. You’ve got all the Obama people who don’t want to carry over coming back onto the market.
Adler, the headhunter, said that unlike previous administrations, more Obama senior staffers are actually staying on near the end of the term because there is so much regulatory work still to be done at places such as, the Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
“There’s lots of people left, good high-quality people,” he said. “The prototypical well-placed government official you want to hire is still working away at his or her job.”