They say that the most important thing to a Member of Congress is getting re-elected. But many care much more about what they do after they leave office -- which often involves getting a well-paying lobbying job. Approximately half of retired Members become lobbyists.
There is currently a law that bars departing Senators from becoming registered lobbyists for two years. In an interview released today, former Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett complained about this "cooling off" period and said it's a "really bad idea" designed to suppress his "constitutional rights":
He now calls the two-year ban a "really bad idea" and part of the "let's-punish-politicians-for-being-politicians attitude."
"Lobbying is a constitutionally sanctioned activity, right in the First Amendment next to the freedom of the press," Bennett told the Tribune. "I don't see any reason why I shouldn't exercise my constitutional rights."
He went on to say that the "whole notion that there is somehow inappropriate influence" exerted by former lawmakers becoming lobbyists "is a myth."
First of all, no court in the nation has attempted to strike down cooling off periods. There is no constitutional right for a former lawmaker to be able to register as a lobbyist whenever they want.
And Bennett hasn't been waiting, anyway. He hasn't registered as a lobbyist, but he has set up his own consulting firm, Bennett Consulting Group, and works for Arrent Fox, a D.C. law and lobbying firm. Through these channels, he's already been influence peddling.
Lastly, it's difficult to imagine that it's simply a myth that former lawmakers have the most influence as lobbyists. There is a reason corporations like UnitedHealthcare and BP sought out former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle and why the for-profit college industry has enlisted former Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. They simply have the most influence to be bought.
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