Thursday, July 22, 2010

Landing On Their Access

For some, government work is a sweet gig: work for a couple of years as a congress critter, aide, or civil servant and then leapfrog into a high paying lobbying job for such organizations as those representing the oil industry. Today's Washington Post details just how government grooms people for the promotion:

Three out of every four lobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in the federal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill, a Washington Post analysis shows.

Key lobbying hires include 18 former members of Congress and dozens of former presidential appointees. For other senior management positions, the industry employs two former directors of the Minerals Management Service, the since-renamed agency that regulates the industry, and several top officials from the Bush White House. Federal inspectors once assigned to monitor oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have landed jobs with the companies they regulated.

The analogy that immediately comes to mind is that of a professional sports, with the government serving as the minor leagues training ground for many who move on to the high-paying big leagues. The sad part is that the system is being gamed by both sides of the aisle:

The analysis suggests the industry has focused on hiring former lawmakers from oil-producing states. Fifteen of the 18 former members of Congress who now lobby for oil and gas firms are from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma or Kansas.

Dozens more previously worked as aides to lawmakers from those states. At least three industry lobbyists, for example, previously worked for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), an outspoken critic of President Obama's oil-drilling moratorium in the gulf.

The article mentions some of these movers as collecting from their future employers even while still in the minor leagues, listing a couple who've been busted for their larceny.

As outrageous as this seems, it gets worse. The door between the government and the oil companies has long swung both ways, with the most successful in the private sector able to return to government in powerful policy making slots, thereby greasing the appointee's return to the private sector.

There's something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

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