TMG Principal Ivan Adler was quoted in The Hill on why lobbyists are trading in higher salaries and cushier jobs to work for Congress.
By Megan R. Wilson | July 14, 2015
Lobbyists are ditching their K Street gigs and taking big pay cuts for a chance to work on Capitol Hill under the all-Republican Congress.
Since Election Day, more than two-dozen have taken jobs as congressional aides, a move usually accompanied by worse hours and a lower salary — at least for a time, according to federal data.
Some maintain they are motivated by loyalty to a particular member or a chance to do public service.
But for others, the move represents part of a long game — a chance to build potentially lucrative relationships with lawmakers and important staffers ahead of a future return to Washington’s influence industry.
Many of those lobbyists are returning to Capitol Hill offices and committees after stints in the private sector, and all but two have gone to work for Republicans.
“Revolvers are essentially selling their Rolodexes,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen.
“The revolving door process consists of spinning from the private sector into government, nurturing close insider relations with government officials and staff and then spinning back into the private sector charging much higher rates to employers and clients for access to those insider connections,” he said.
When contacted by The Hill, most of the individuals declined through spokespeople to comment for this story. But rules requiring incoming staffers to disclose previous private sector salary information if their new salary is above a certain threshold — typically about $121,000 — offer a rare window into lobbyist earnings, which are not usually public.
Among those making the cross-town trek in the current Congress was Charles Ingebretson. Formerly a vice president of energy and environmental policy at Boeing, Ingebretson became chief counsel at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
At the aerospace giant, Ingebretson made $713,083 in 2014, according to the disclosures. House records put his congressional salary at $160,000 per year — a 78 percent decrease.
Jeff Shockey, who helped run S-3 Group before becoming the Republican staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, earned more than $1.2 million from his firm last year, disclosure forms say. He now makes $172,500 per year.
Sam Scales, who worked as an associate managing director at law firm Dentons, became the director of coalitions and member services on the House Natural Resources Committee. House disclosures put his current salary at $60,000 per year, which means he does not need to disclose his former pay.
Sean McLaughlin of the Podesta Group, who Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) named as staff director for the House Oversight Committee, now makes more than $170,000 per year. Although his income triggers the disclosure requirement, his forms do not include how much he made at one of K Street’s most successful firms. Requests for that figure were not returned.
There are any number of reasons lobbyists may choose to take a Capitol Hill job, including the chance to update their resume or refresh contacts, said Ivan Adler, a K Street headhunter. In addition to policy, process and press, he says, “one of the four Ps in Washington is to know the people.”
“If you’re the first violin in the Buffalo Symphony, and you get a chance to be the first violin in the Philadelphia Symphony, that is something that you would do. And there’s nothing wrong with upgrading your career,” said Adler, a principal at the McCormick Group.
The chance to work for a new majority or within leadership is also an attractive incentive.
Hazen Marshall, who worked at K Street powerhouse Nickles Group — a firm run by former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) — earned $871,387 last year. Now working for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Marshall earns roughly $164,000, according to records kept by congressional tracking website LegiStorm.
Tim LaPira, an associate professor at James Madison University who studies lobbying, says that about half of all lobbyists have worked in the government at some level.
“I don’t see it, at an individual level, as some form of legal corruption. Usually it’s a logical, reasonable and personal professional choice,” he said.
Movement between government and the private sector is one way to “stay in the game,” he added, but “that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have systematic impacts on who gets represented on Washington, and who gets better representation in Washington.”
Sometimes personal friendships drive a shift back into the public sector