Ivan Adler was quoted in the Washington Post explaining why fewer K Street lobbyists are going to Capitol Hill.
By Holly Yeager | May 4, 2014
Congressional staff members who pass through the revolving door and onto K Street understandably draw scrutiny. Where are they going? How will they use their Hill connections? How much money will they make?
But sometimes the revolving door carries lobbyists to the halls of Congress, and the movement in that direction is worth a look, too.
Take Stephen Sayle. As others have noted, he worked for about 15 years as a lobbyist, the last seven at Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, where he had several big energy clients, including Chevron. Late last year, he became staff director for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s energy subcommittee.
And Brian Moulton, a longtime lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign who last month went to work as a lawyer for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
Those and other moves raise their own questions: Why would someone do this? What kind of pay cut are they taking?
First, a little perspective. While the number of people moving from the influence industry to Capitol Hill has always been smaller than those going the other way, it hit a 10-year low last year, according to data collected by Legistorm. The 108 former lobbyists who became congressional aides was less than half the 220 who made that move in 2011, the site said.
People who work on K Street and on the Hill have several explanations for the dramatic decline, including the bitter partisan mood in recent years and the related frustration at how little has been getting accomplished. The government shutdown didn’t help, either.
It’s all that and more, said Ivan Adler, a headhunter for the McCormick Group who helps Hill staffers transition to lobbying. “It used to be that you weren’t getting paid a lot of money but you could go on trips and get wined and dined and romanced by lobbyists,” he said. But since a 2007 ethics law that put new restrictions on gifts to lawmakers and their staffs, “You can’t do that any more.”
And what about pay? It’s not news that most Hill staffers make less — sometimes a lot less — than lobbyists. But something has changed on this front, too.
Total spending on salaries in the House rose by 42 percent from 2001-2010, according to Legistorm’s tally of House records. But Republicans tightened budgets after they took control of the House in 2010, leaving some jobs unfilled and less money to spend on those that do get filled.
“It makes it even harder to hire someone from the lobbying world,” said Legistorm’s founder, Jock Friedly, who drew his share of wrath for making it easy to look up staffers’ salaries and financial disclosure reports.
But plenty of people still make the move. Sayle declined to comment on his recent switch, and Moulton didn’t reply to a request for comment