The Washington Post

The revolving door between Congress and K Street is moving faster than ever

Lobbying — both in terms of the raw number of people doing it and the money being spent on it — is soaring.  According to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation, lobbying revenue almost doubled between 1998-2012, reaching more than $1 billion by the end of that period.

Lobbyists not allowed. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

That's nothing new. But what is new — and telling — to us is that so much of the growth in the lobbying world comes from people with past experience working within the federal government.

Check out these two charts from Sunlight. The first shows that revenues from lobbyists with no government experience stayed steady over the 14-year period that Sunlight monitored. Revenues for lobbyists with government experience, on the other hand, soared more than 400 percent during that same period.

Image courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation

The second chart details the raw numbers of lobbyists over the past 14 years. Again, the growth in lobbyists comes heavily from those with prior government experience.

Image courtesy of Sunlight Foundation

The trend is quite clear: Those hiring (and paying) lobbyists these days prize previous experience in government above all else. And, of course, "previous government experience" is code for relationships with lawmakers and staff that, at least in theory, opens doors and greases the legislative wheels.

This boom among lobbyists with government experience comes amid efforts in recent years to limit them and their influence.  Senators are currently banned from lobbying their former colleagues for two years and House members have to wait a year until after they leave the chamber to begin lobbying. (Efforts to make that a lifetime ban are going nowhere.)  Staffers face a one-year lobbying ban.  And, the Obama administration is in the midst of a legal battle over its ban on registered lobbyists serving on advisory boards.

The simple fact is that the revolving door between Congress and lobbying is being used far more than ever before. The bans may have slowed the move from public service to private sector but it has done nothing to end it — or even shrink it.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
The Post's Dan Balz says ...
This was supposed to be the strongest Republican presidential field in memory, but cracks are showing. At Saturday night's debate, Marco Rubio withered in the face of unyielding attacks from Chris Christie, drawing attention to the biggest question about his candidacy: Is he ready to be president? How much the debate will affect Rubio's standing Tuesday is anybody's guess. But even if he does well, the question about his readiness to serve as president and to go up against Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, will linger.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.