MAY 1996 · VOLUME 17 · NUMBER 5
T H E I R M A S T E R S ' V O I C E
IN HIS NOW-FAMOUS DIARY, former Senator Bob Packwood not only wrote of his sexual antics and back room deals, but also confided his fondest hopes for the future. "I can become a lobbyist at five or six hundred thousand [per year]," read one dreamy entry.
Packwood got his wish, though perhaps sooner than he expected. Following his expulsion from the Senate, he signed on with Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, whose clients include Microsoft, Asarco and Hewlett-Packard. In addition to Packwood, Preston Gates also employs two former House of Representative members, William Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, and Roger Wicker, a Republican from Kentucky, as well as a number of former congressional staffers.
A review of filings under new federal lobbying disclosure laws reveals that for members of Congress, staffers and high-ranking federal employees, public service is often merely a midway stop on the journey to a more lucrative career as beltway influence peddler. They come to Washington, D.C., punch their ticket, and quickly sell themselves to law firms based on their expertise in negotiating the federal bureaucracy. About half of the congressional staffers who worked on the tax reform bill of 1986 went on to become corporate lobbyists.
Packwood is one of 9,219 lobbyists who registered under disclosure rules that went into effect last January. That's twice the number who had previously registered, but still a fraction of the estimated 80,000 hired guns working in the capital.
Several of Packwood's old colleagues have also parlayed dishonorable years in the U.S. capital into profitable lobbying careers. Dave Durenberger, the senator from Minnesota who retired a few years ago under a cloud of scandal, specialized in health care issues during his 16 years in the upper chamber. He now works for APCO Associates, a beltway consulting firm that specializes in stirring up fake "grass-roots" campaigns for its corporate clientele [see "APCO: Astroturf Makers," Multinational Monitor, March 1996]. Durenberger's clients at APCO include Allina Health System, St. Jude Medical (of St. Paul, Minnesota), and several other health care interests.
Working with Durenberger at APCO is Susan Bartlett Foote, his former senior legislative assistant. Foote, who Durenberger married last year, also represents several health care companies. Two other former Durenberger staffers, Matt Dolan and JoAnn Willis, also found employ at beltway lobby shops -- Baker and Hostetler, and Patton Boggs, respectively. Given all this, it's easy to see why Durenberger voted against a bill to reform lobbying laws back in 1994.
Dennis DeConcini, a member of the S&L scandal's Keating Five gang, chaired a Senate committee that oversaw drug patents until retiring last year. He swiftly moved to Parry & Romani Associates, a firm run by his former chief of staff, Romano Romani.
At his new home, DeConcini represents pharmaceutical makers like Pfizer, Genetech, Upjohn and Glaxo-Wellcome, the world's largest drug company. Glaxo-Wellcome hired Parry & Romani to maintain a loophole in the GATT trade treaty that extends patents on drugs such as Glaxo's Zantac [see "GATT Rx: Profit Overdose," Multinational Monitor, May 1995]. The loophole, which remains unclosed, is worth millions to DeConcini's client because it prevents consumers from buying cheaper generic alternatives to Zantac for another two years.
DeConcini told The Washington Post that he could not understand why anyone would criticize his current efforts. "People who serve in government often go ahead and work for somebody later," said DeConcini, who was equally baffled by public reaction to his cozy relationship with Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings. "I think that's pretty natural."
In other fields, the revolving door is also turning smoothly. Michael Andrews, a former Democratic representative from Texas, served on the Ways and Means Committee while in the House. Now, on the payroll at Vinson & Elkins, he lobbies for Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers.
Marti Cochran, formerly at the Senate Banking Committee, signed on as a partner at Arnold & Porter, where she lobbies on issues such as securities law and product liability. Her clients include several firms whose activities she helped regulate during her years in Congress, such as Paine Webber, Greenwich capital markets and First Savings Bank.
Darryl Nirenberg now lobbies for Liggett Group and the Smokeless Tobacco Council from his post at the firm of Patton Boggs. Just a few years ago, he served as chief of staff to one of the tobacco industry's best friends in Congress, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.
This sort of activity is eased by the weak lobbying law passed by Congress last year. The only real restriction is that members of Congress are not allowed to lobby their former colleagues for one year. Staffers are prevented from lobbying their old offices for the same period of time. After that, anything goes.
Migration from public life to private plunder is not a new development. Almost all of the capital's most potent influence peddlers previously worked in government: Lloyd Cutler of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering is a former adviser to President Jimmy Carter and to Bill Clinton; Tom Korologos and Bill Timmons of Timmons & Company both are veterans of the Nixon White House; Robert Strauss of Akin, Gump was head of the Democratic Party, campaign chair for Jimmy Carter and, in the spirit of bipartisanship, George Bush's ambassador to Russia.
But today the revolving door is spinning faster than ever. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity says lobbyists have become "the investment bankers of the Nineties. There are a lot of young people who dream of becoming a lobbyist. They see it as a way of making a lot of money and being part of the wheeler-dealer game."
-- Ken Silverstein