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Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks to supporters. | AP Photo

Principal Ivan Adler weighs in with Politico on Mary Landrieu’s potential opportunities as a Congresswoman-turned-lobbyist.

By Anna Palmer and Burgess Everett | December 10, 2014

Mary Landrieu may have lost her Senate seat, but the Louisiana Democrat is a hot commodity on K Street.

Several headhunters, veteran lobbyists and consultants said Landrieu’s status as a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee make her a top recruit from Capitol Hill.

As the lame-duck session nears an end, another season begins in earnest — the annual dance of exiting lawmakers quietly reaching out to private-sector contacts and making the rounds at Washington law firms and lobby shops, with just a few weeks until the retiring or defeated lawmakers are out of a job. But even as a Democrat, Landrieu stands out among new retirees from a majority-Republican Congress.

“I think K Street would welcome [Landrieu] with open arms,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at The McCormick Group. “She’s extremely attractive to K Street because of her favorable views on business.”

As she spoke to supporters after her loss over the weekend, Landrieu said cryptically that she will “continue” to serve Louisiana, without offering any details. Since her defeat, she’s been absent from the Senate, missing several votes this week.

In particular, Landrieu’s strong defense of the oil and gas sector — an industry that spends tens of millions of dollars every year on influence-peddling — could provide the Democrat with entree not only to a law firm or consulting shop, but in-house at a company or trade association.

“The most likely person to be successful is Mary,” one head of a law firm’s lobbying practice said of this year’s crop of nearly 50 House members and dozen exiting senators.

The path from Capitol Hill to K Street is well worn, with dozens of former Republican and Democratic lawmakers moving on to lucrative political afterlives. Senators are barred from registering as lobbyists for two years and House members for one year, although all may become advocates for specific policies at lobbying shops around town, a situation that often blurs the distinction.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd famously said he would not become a lobbyist after he retired. Technically, he didn’t, though he did become a leading advocate for the movie industry when he became chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is another example of a former lawmaker going into “consulting,” though he’s not formally registered as a lobbyist.

After losing a December runoff, Landrieu hasn’t actually said what she’ll do next. But the intense interest in wooing her is an example of how quickly an electoral loss can turn into a payday downtown.

Landrieu is a bit of an anomaly. Overall, the market for former lawmakers has gone down in the past couple of years because law firms and lobby shops have struggled as companies reduced retainers and clamped down on Washington spending after the economic downturn.

“It will be a tight job market,” said Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group. “It’s better to be a Republican right now, but good Democrats can find good opportunities.”

Still, the veteran lobbyist said he doesn’t think “there will be bidding wars as there might have been in the past.”

While having a former lawmaker as a glad-hander at pitches or during frequent fundraisers was enough during the early 2000s, now firms want to make sure they have a business plan to attract their own client list.

“The market has really dropped out from underneath these folks for the most part,” said Rich Gold, head of Holland & Knight’s government affairs practice. “There is not a lot of growth in town at large lobbying firms or law firms with lobbying shops. There is little desire to take someone on with no book of business and see if they can do it in two years. Very few people have done that over the past four to five years.”

One other major change is that firms willing to pay a former senator $750,000 to $1 million want the ex-lawmaker to register as a lobbyist, something Democrats in particular during the Obama era have been loath to do.

So far, many of Landrieu’s erstwhile colleagues are keeping their powder dry — at least publicly — about their plans for the future.

“I’m going back to Georgia,” said GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner and an influential member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Asked whether he could see himself being a lobbyist in two years, he replied with a grin: “That’s not me.”

But Chambliss is among several retiring senators who don’t have the access to wealth that many of their moneyed colleagues do, which could make a D.C. gig more enticing. Chambliss, for example, had a net worth of about $40,000, according to Roll Call’s list of the wealthiest members. Ousted Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is presented on that list as having a negative net worth — but he, too, seemed to reflexively oppose the idea of staying in Washington and cashing in.

“I want to live in Arkansas, I want to work down there. That’s where we’re leaning,” Pryor said. “I’m not going to say no to anything just yet, but certainly I want to get back to Arkansas.”

That public posture is typical of both Republican and Democratic exiting members. As they prepare to take the last votes of their congressional careers during the lame duck, lawmakers are careful not to get boxed in — even as several gently pushed back against the notion that they would stay in D.C. and work on K Street.

Others aren’t so adamant. Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns has served at every level of government during his political career: as mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, governor, secretary of agriculture and finally a one-term senator. That sort of résumé will be in major demand in Washington come January — and Johanns said that since his wife works in town, he will likely continue to shuttle between D.C. and Nebraska, and predicted he’d be engaged in a “variety of things” in his post-political life.

“Stephanie works here in Washington. I think in terms of lifestyle, nothing changes too much. I think we’ll still go back and forth to Nebraska,” Johanns said. “We can’t lobby for two years, so I don’t see myself lobbying. Now, I’m a lawyer by profession.”

Then, there are the lawmakers who still have the Washington bug […]


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The McCormick Group is a national executive search consulting firm that since 1974 has delivered high-qualified candidates to fill key positions across a diverse range of industries and all functional disciplines.


As the largest executive search firm based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, The McCormick Group has superior knowledge of federal Washington and its impact on the nation’s business community and non-profit sector.