By LYDIA DENNETT
Former elected officials lobbying for foreign dictators may be big business in DC, but one Member of Congress is trying to slow down the revolving door between the Hill and lobbying shops that work on behalf of interests outside the U.S.
Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) recently introduced the Foreign Lobbying Reform Act (H.R. 4343), which would prohibit high-ranking government officials like the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and ambassadors from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments for ten years after leaving office.
According to Rep. Wolf, “serving in Congress or as a United States ambassador is a high honor and people should not walk out of government one day and then trade on their service the next, especially for governments who do not share the same values as the United States.”
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Mitigating the conflicts that arise from the revolving door between the Capitol and K Street’s lobby shops has been important to POGO for years. We have recommended longer cooling-off periods for elected officials, their staff, and other government officials for all kinds of lobbying as well as for communications with government officials not currently required to be reported as lobbying. Foreign lobbying happens to be a very popular and lucrative gig for some former officials.
One of the most notable cases is former Republican Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole. Dole is currently employed as Special Counsel to Alston & Bird, LLP which lobbies on behalf of Taiwan and Russia. In July, of 2010 Dole wrote an op-ed in The Washington Times regarding a new trade deal between Taiwan and China. He praised the two countries’ cooperation and suggested that it’s time for a free trade agreement with Taiwan. Dole’s name added weight to the piece that the average lobbyist doesn’t command.
Similarly, Bob Livingston, who served as a Republican Representative of Louisiana for 22 years and nearly became Speaker of the House, is one of the most prominent foreign lobbyists. Exactly one year after leaving office in 1999, he founded the Livingston Group, which has represented countries like Libya, Morocco, Azerbaijan, the Netherlands Antilles, and Egypt. The Livingston Group continued to lobby on behalf of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak throughout the Egyptian revolution, only terminating its contract with the dictatorship in January of this year.
Documents distributed by Livingston, Dole, and hundreds of other foreign lobbyists were collected by POGO and will soon be released as part of a database.
Dole and Livingston are just two of the more well known examples of elected officials passing through the revolving door and on to the extremely lucrative foreign lobbying industry after resigning from public office. Allowing these former leaders to leave office and then use their considerable influence and resources to promote special interests of any kind is often not in the best interest of the American public.
Therefore, Rep. Wolf’s effort to update the law to slow the revolving door to foreign lobbying is commendable. POGO also supports H.R. 4030, the Stop the Revolving Door in Washington Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), which would extend the cooling off period restricting former Members of Congress from lobbying for five years (currently there is a one-year restriction for Members of the House and two years for Senators).
Lydia Dennett is a POGO researcher.
Image via Virginia Guard Public Affairs.