Former Legislators Get Staggeringly Rich Peddling Influence, In Case You'd Somehow Forgotten

If the example of Senator Olympia Snowe is any guide, then the typical "Why I Am Leaving Congress" op-ed is fairly similar to Greg Smith's now-famous "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" bridge-burner: a lack of faith in their respective institutions' current "trajectory of culture."

But for a select few Congress-critters, their parting shot might be a much easier read, and it would go a little something like this:

Why I Am Leaving Congress

Smell you later, jerks, I'm off to get RICH!


Judd Gregg, Billy Tauzin, Tom Daschle, Christopher Dodd, etc.

What's the secret? You gotta become a lobbyist, son. It's the sort of private sector job where the emphasis is on the word "private," as in: exclusive, not for everyone, members only.

In fact, why are you even in Congress if this is not your eventual endgame? Over the past few months, many are the politicos bemoaning how terrible the pay is. Representative Sean Duffy drives a used minivan because his $174,000 annual compensation isn't enough to upgrade. Representative John Fleming frets that he's got a scanty 400 G's left over once he's paid his bills. Representative Steve Southerland reckons he should get some hazard pay because "they're shooting at us." He went on to add: "If you think this job pays too much, with those kinds of risks and cutting me off from my family business, I'll just tell you: This job don't mean that much to me. I had a good life in Panama City."

Sheesh, Southerland, you can't be thinking about your good life in Panama City! You gotta stay focused on the back-end of your career, because that's where all the action is. And, as Lee Fang at the Republic Report points out, "Selling out pays." Fang takes a survey of all the big ballers who've moved from the halls of power to the K Street set, and finds real potential for enrichment:

Republic Report combed through the few disclosures that are out there to find out how much lawmakers make when they sell out and lobby for interests they once oversaw as public officials. To be sure, this list only shows the tip of the iceberg (out of the 44 lawmakers who left office in 2010 for a lobbying-related career, only one is at an organization that discloses his salary).

Our research effort uncovered the partial salaries of twelve lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Republic Report's investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1,452% on average from the last year they were in office to the latest publicly available disclosure.

Now, not everyone who follows this path is going to be pulling down Bill Tauzin money ($19,359,927 for four years shilling for Big Pharma), but if you max out those connections, you can make a nice living. Between his Fox News gig and his two jobs as an influence peddler, former Senator Evan Bayh has three private-sector gigs going. (He vowed, upon retirement, to create jobs, but he never promised he'd create one for you!) And as Fang notes, the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street is a good mechanism for filling all those new openings at Goldman:

In many cases, these types of revolving door arrangements drastically shape the laws we all live under. For example, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to bring greater transparency to the derivatives marketplace. Almost as soon as he left office, he joined the board of a derivatives trading company and became an "advisor" to Goldman Sachs. Risky derivative trading exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008, yet we're stuck under the laws written in part by Gregg.

Circle of life, baby! So, in short: Senator Snowe, you should probably consider a career in influence laundering. And Greg Smith? You should really start thinking about running for Congress.

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