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Ex-Lawmakers Bide Their Time, Leap Into Lobbying

Congress: Bob Packwood and others are back to sway former colleagues. A one-year cooling-off period doesn't slow the "revolving door."

November 14, 1996|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Barely a year after leaving the Senate under charges of sexual harassment and improper dealings with lobbyists, Bob Packwood is back in business--as a lobbyist. He joins a growing list of his former colleagues.

Packwood filed papers to incorporate his new lobbying firm, Sunrise Research, just 11 days after the legal one-year moratorium on lobbying expired last month. He registered two weeks later to lobby for a business coalition on estate tax issues, a subject he oversaw as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Packwood joins the fast-growing ranks of former public officials who have come through the "revolving door" to cash in by lobbying based on knowledge acquired in government service. Often the new jobs reap multiples of former salaries in Congress.

"It's one of the worst abuses in Washington," said Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), who hopes to try again with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when the new Congress convenes next year to enact stiffer curbs on the practice.

Current law mandates a yearlong cooling-off period before former lawmakers and aides can directly lobby their onetime colleagues. The restriction has had little discernible effect on the number who continue to enlist in the influence business.

Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Texas), who had already decided not to seek reelection this year, resigned his House seat after Congress adjourned in October.

That started the one-year clock ticking a bit sooner, rather than waiting until the next Congress is seated in early January. Wilson already has signed on with the firm Hooper Hooper Owen & Gould, which lobbies primarily on energy questions.

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Another House member headed for the lobbying fold is Rep. Bill Brewster (D-Okla.), who will work for the firm R. Duffy Wall & Associates at a salary "quite a bit better" than his congressional pay of $133,600. He said he expects to focus on energy and health care.

Other former lawmakers expected to look for work in the influence business are Reps. Steve Gunderson and Toby Roth, both Wisconsin Republicans; Jim Chapman (D-Texas); Jack Fields (R-Texas); Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), whose son, Hunter, is a lobbyist; and Rep. Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.), whose son, Clifford, also is in the lobbying game.

"I plan to make a little noise every once in a while," the elder Gibbons said. Tax and trade areas, both the province of his former committee, House Ways and Means, will be his specialties.

And Dan Meyer, House Speaker Newt Gingrich's chief of staff, is leaving the Capitol for the private sector. He hasn't detailed his plans.

The path to the private sector is well worn. Two years ago, at least 25 of the 91 members who resigned, retired or were defeated for reelection registered later as lobbyists, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. A 1995 study of 353 former lawmakers found that about 1 in 4 turned to lobbying.

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Packwood, who could not be reached for comment, was quite familiar with lobbyists when he was in the Senate. He wrote in his diaries about arrangements he had sought with "fat cat" influence brokers who could produce income for his former wife to reduce his alimony payments.

In one blunt diary entry, Packwood wrote that a lobbyist helped him raise campaign money "because much of his income is dependent on his relationship with me. He has got a vested interest in my staying in office."

Those relationships and the access they provide--along with knowledge of how the institution works--are the commodities that these high-profile lobbyists are selling.

Guy Vander Jagt, a former GOP House member from Michigan who now lobbies for the firm Baker & Hostetler, retains a convenient parking space for his dark green Jaguar when he makes calls at the Capitol. Among his clients: the American Football Coaches Assn., pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Edison Electric Institute, Jordache and Travelers insurance.

John H. Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and President Bush's chief of staff, recently signed up to represent a wholesale firearms distributor on trade matters, including the importation of curios and relics.

Former Sen. Dave Durenberger (R-Minn.) represents Bristol-Myers Squibb and the city of Duluth, Minn.; former Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) lobbies for Herbalife, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffman-LaRoche, Pfizer, Genentech and more than a dozen other companies.

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