The revolving door between Washington and lobbyists continues to resemble the criminal ‘expert networks’ used by large hedge funds like SAC Capital to get an edge in the stock market. Instead of getting an edge in the market, lobbyist firms, like expert networks, use their connections and influence to get changes made to our laws.
The latest example of what should be an illegal practice was the announcement that ‘law firm’ Van Ness Feldman announcing that former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who lost her reelection bid last year, will be joining the company to help run its lobbying division. She will “focus on energy issues.”
Yet Landrieu joins the firm after pushing aggressively for energy-related policy goals that overlapped with Van Ness Feldman’s clients, calling into question her track record as an impartial lawmaker.
In November of last year, for instance, Landrieu helped force a vote to approve the Keystone XL, the controversial tar sands pipeline owned by Transcanada. The giant Canadian pipe company is a key client of Van Ness Feldman.
Landrieu also worked to speed the approval of liquefied natural gas export terminals, another contentious issue. She sponsored legislation to speed up the LNG approval process and specifically pushed for questionable individual projects, including the Sempra Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana.
Surprise, surprise: Van Ness Feldman has a large practice on LNG issues and lobbied for approval of several LNG export terminals, including the Sempra facility backed by Landrieu.
“I am proud to join Van Ness Feldman,” Landrieu said in a statement released by the firm. “I have always respected the firm and worked closely with them during my 18 years in the Senate,” she noted. “Their substantive and sophisticated approach to important public policy issues in the areas of energy, the environment and natural resources was a major factor in my decision-making process.”
While she will not technically lobby Congress, as former senators are barred from engaging in lobby activity as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act for two years after leaving office, it’s a fine line between lobbying and advising.
The Department of Justice has never in its history brought an enforcement action on unregistered lobbying, and the law is regularly flouted, as senators collect kickbacks and use their influence accrued during their time in office.
Landrieu’s move to a firm filled with clients she regularly promoted while a Senator is becoming a regular feature of the Washington revolving door.
Former Sen. Judd Greg, R-N.H., guided financial ‘reform’ bills, then took a lucrative job for Goldman Sachs and a Wall Street trade association after leaving elected office.
Former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., cost American citizens hundreds of billions of dollars by drafting the law that prevents Medicare from importing reasonably priced prescription drugs from Canada or from negotiating for cheaper prices at all. Tauzin, upon leaving Congress, joined a drug company lobby group called PhRMA, a position that eventually paid him more than $11 million in one year alone.
Lobbyists, like their Expert Network counterparts in finance seem long overdue for a major crackdown.