Average Congresscritter gets 1,452% raises when they turn corporate lobbyist

Republic Report has released figures documenting the fact that the average member of Congress gets a 1,452% salary hike when she or he leaves office and becomes a corporate lobbyist. They point out that politicians are allowed to negotiate these raises while they are in office, and don't have to disclose this fact when they're working on legislation that will benefit their future employers. One of the poster children for this is former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) who fought against financial reforms to the derivatives market, then joined the board of a derivatives-trading company and was given an advisory role at Goldman Sachs.

Our research effort uncovered the partial salaries of twelve lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Republic Report’s investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1452% on average from the last year they were in office to the latest publicly available disclosure:

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110%.

Former Congressman Cal Dooley (D-CA) has made at least $4,719,093 as a lobbyist for food manufacturers and the chemical industry from 2005 to 2009. Republic Report analyzed disclosures from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry lobby — for companies like Kellogg — where Dooley worked following his retirement from Congress. We also added in Dooley’s salary from the American Chemistry Council, where Dooley now works as the president. The Chemistry Council represents Dow Chemical, DuPont, and other chemical interests. Dooley’s salary jumped 1357% between his last year in the House and his last reported salary for the Chemistry Council in 2009.

Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) makes approximately $1.5 million a year as the chief lobbyist for the movie industry. Dodd, who retired from the Senate after 2010, was hired by the Motion Picture Association of America, the lobbying association that represents major studios like Warner Bros. and Universal Studios. Although the MPAA would not confirm with Republic Report Dodd’s exact salary, media accounts point to $1.5 million, a slightly higher figure than the previous MPAA head, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Dodd received about a 762% raise after moving from public office to lobbying.

ANALYSIS: When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452% Raise (on Average) (via Techdirt)


    1.  I’ve made comments to people over the years that we could simply pay these guys a lot more when they are office.  People seem resistant to the idea.

      1.  The only difference would be a lower %age pay raise when they left office. 800% instead of 1400%, for example.

      2. I suspect that you’d run into a problem fairly quickly:

        It is definitely the case that, if you don’t pay legislators(or pay them something entirely symbolic) you’ll end up with a legislature composed entirely of paid flacks and idle gentry. That is bad.

        However, once you hit approximately ‘comfortably upper middle class’ you run into the fact that some people just don’t seem to have a practical upper limit on how much money they want. The ones that do are comparatively cheap to keep happy; but the ones that don’t simply don’t appear to be buyable. 

        1. Not there is anything wrong with the “idle gentry” making up a proportion of a political class. The British didn’t pay their MPs between 1678 and 1911. In that mix there were same self interested hacks that are still with us but also many unbribable politicians focused on the public interest. Lots of other pols down the years could be tagged as “idle gentry”, Churchill, FDR, Paul Martin in Canada, Romney, and JFK. These guys are less of threat to the common good than those politicians who want to become “idle gentry”.

      3.  Or even better you could make this kind of conflict of interest illegal (or at the very least a breach of their contract of employment punishable with a HEFTY fine) and punish those that take bribes from lobbyists with fraud and whatever else it falls under.

        It’s really not a difficult problem to solve, it’s just that the people required to make these changes are the ones that require the regulation; so good luck with that.

        1. We already have a problem, the people that our representatives are supposed to ride heard upon, pay better wages than we do.  That is factual.  No group of people are incorruptible, also factual.  Paying them more levels the playing field, plausible.  Taxpayers can certainly afford it, factual.

          The argument against is we shouldn’t reward pols for being corruptible, however see the Nirvana fallacy.  A small perusal of history doesn’t support the idea that one can have a political class that is incorruptible.

      4. Pay more money to greedy and corruptible people who are to a man above the riches’s line to begin with. There’s something that seems not right with this. Maybe it’s that they don’t have much of an upper limit.

      5. Well, people are pretty upset at how much the bankers at the center of the financial crisis were getting paid to explode the economy.  Maybe it’s a little like that situation where giving congress a raise when their approval rating is at a historic low would be sending the wrong idea?  Seems to me like giving a raise to people who are doing a terrible job creates a moral hazard.

        If this was the solution it would have to go hand-in-hand with some serious anti-lobbying and campaign finance reform legislation.  Paying congressmen more won’t automatically end corruption.  Only someone hopelessly naive would think that.  Anti-corruption laws with teeth are much more important than giving these assholes a raise.

  1. At first i was reading that as unusually detailed 1%, but then it dawned on me that americans use comma to separate indicate thousands. At that point my jaw dropped. I can’t even begin to understand why there are not a whole lot of protests over this, at least…

      1. And most of the solutions I hear from them is to replace crony capitalism with crony socialism, to trade one corrupt ruling class for another…

        1. Then go out and participate. Share your ideas. Be a part of politics. If you’re into anarchy and tearing away corrupt ruling classes the Black Bloc is always looking for window smashers.

          1.  I’m unelectable, because I’m allergic to Kool-Aid.

            As for the ‘anarchists’, it’s pretty words to justify petty vandalism.

          2. I’m unelectable, because I’m allergic to Kool-Aid.

            Ah, but your natural modesty is such a selling point.

        2. No one said anything about electing you. I said participate in politics. It’s what we’re doing now except you leave the internet and talk to others.

    1. Occupy. We’ve been waiting for people like you to stop posting comments online and to take the streets and become engaged. The real kind of engaged, not the “Like” engaged.

  2. When it is perfectly legal to buy a politician before or after they enter office, it makes you wonder why any sucker would risk the legal exposure of buying one during their term…

    1.  Risk? what risk? What was the last major corporation to face any legal consequences from buying a congressperson whatsoever? Occasionally a small fry gets thrown under the bus to preserve the illusion of fighting congressional corruption, but if you put enough lawyers into the mix you’ll get shady deals that not only are entirely legal but are positively patriotic.

  3. Let me get this straight, Corporations hire former Congressmen to chat up current Congressmen so they’ll pass legislation contrary to voter wishes and they get paid millions to do so.  Why the fuck is this even legal?

    1.  Because the people making the laws benefit directly by not stopping it.
      Like how it is perfectly legal for them to use testimony and secret reports they are privy to for stock selections.  If the average guy did it – in jail for insider trading.

      Imagine how small the deficit could be if we just taxed Congresscritters.

    2. As That_Anonymous_Coward says, the people who would make it illegal are the same people who abuse it. I would call this a fundamental flaw in the system. If we can just get passed this long enough to make laws…

    3. Capitalism is money attracting more money.  This is exactly how it’s meant to work.

      1. I think some might say they make it out of nothing in the first place, so it is theirs to keep anyway.

    4.  It’s worse than that, they make deals while they are in office with a nod and a handshake but no paper trail, then wait for an exchange of money and signing of contracts so that the quid and quo are separated in time enough that sitting congresspeople can author legislation specifically for the benefit of their buyers legally. The lobbying gig is just a bonus.

      And we’ll likely never be able to prove any of it.

  4. It’s misleading to show two Democrats and two Republicans as the examples in the article.  Creates the impression that this sort of corruption is evenly bi-partisan when in fact it’s almost entirely a Republican disease.

        1. The inconvenient truth is that enough people cared enough about his corporate ties for Bush to even have come at all close. See also: Nader, Ralph.

    1. “when in fact it’s almost entirely a Republican disease.”

      Is it? Do you have any statistics on that?

      1.  I’ve certainly heard a lot more about electoral fraud committed by Republicans but I don’t doubt Democrats do this as well.  I’d love to see some accounting on this question.

  5. In Canada there is a 5 year prohibition for any public official to become a lobbyist. Having said that, the Canadian government depends a lot on lobby groups for data in the preparation of legislation, and it is a huge growth industry.

    Since lobbying is a tax-deductible business expense, you and me are paying big business to distort legislationto their advantage. So the plan should be to lobby your congressman (or member of parliament) to exclude lobbying as a tax deductible corporate expense. 

    1. In America they “promised” not to do it…. and we believed them.
      But then we also bought a bridge… in Brooklyn….

  6. I”ve said forever that those serving in federal elected postions should be banned from lobbying and similar actives for 4-5 years after their term ends…if not then why would anyone not be “on the take” during the lame duck session…to get the big payday in corporate “greed” america…

  7. Congress critters and other such federal employees should be guaranteed a reasonable upper-middle class standard of living  after they leave office.  They should  also be free to give their time to any organization or corporation they please  after leaving office.  Accepting any form of compensation for their time should be a capital offense.

    1. Up until everyone else is middle class, I think they should be making minimum wage.  I think they should pay for their own insurance, gas, housing.  I think they deserve a wakeup call about what it is to actually work in this country.

      We have a National Vanilla Cupcake Day, and then they made a National Chocolate Cupcake Day…  Me thinks their priorities are a bit screwed.

      If we paid them based on actual work that helped the country, they would owe us money for the last 2 years.  They ran the Government to the brink of shutting down, to prove who had the bigger balls.  Its not them, their money comes from a source not affected by a Government shutdown, they set themselves apart… its time to pull them back into the reality the rest of us are drowning in.

      1. This is what happens in most African countries, and it doesn’t work. The lower you set politicians’ salaries compared to the 1%, the more the 1% can easily buy them off.

        On the other side though, Italian politicians are the highest-paid in Europe, and it’s not exactly a country known for spotless politics. 

        This is indeed a flaw in the system. It was historically kept in check, in most European countries, by strong working-class movements throughout the 20th century. Those have disappeared with the rise of services as the main economic engine of developed nations. 

        Now we’re all middle class, we all want as much money as we can get away with, and we believe ideologies (and hence morals and ethics) are for silly people. Our representatives simply represent what we have become.

        1. The easy argument is that without financial renumeration they’d be more open to bribes; but IMO unless you’re willing to pay them more than they could ever be bribed no salary will prevent the practice.

          I say don’t pay them anything; it shouldn’t be a job; I’d rebuild politics to more closely represent a community based society (or school society), something that people with passion participate in because they care – I think issues with bribery go beyond salary and are far more likely to do with the kind of people political office attracts (which is a much harder problem to solve).

          1.  Most congresscritters are in it for the prestige, not the money. That said, it is worrying that it took less than 250 years for plutocracy to replace democracy. What we need is more representatives that are willing to work for democracy.

            Remember kids, when Julius Caesar seized Rome and made himself dictator for life, it was only to set the empire back on the course of democracy. Each emperor thereafter cried, “The republic, the republic!”, but didn’t quite get around to it.

          2.  @MythicalMe: It didn’t take any time at all for plutocracy to replace democracy- it was plutocracy from the beginning.

  8. File this under “no duh”. The gov. doesn’t pay that well to begin with (Well… when you consider the power they have. No CEO or other high end management person would work for such “paltry” wages.) Of course they are going to make a LOT more in the private sector. Especially since they know what palms to grease now.

    What to do? What can you do? Nothing besides to place more restrictions on lobbyists. 1/2 of congress goes in as millionaires. I wonder how many are millionaire say 4 years after leaving office?

    1.  If you were the CEO of a company that had been hemorrhaging money for decades then you probably couldn’t expect much in the way of a salary.  If you want to use a corporate analogy then quite frankly we (the western world) can’t afford the politicians we have.

    2.  $174,000 a year.  They don’t need to show up at this job every day — Congress is only in session a few months out of each year.  Hell, they don’t actually need to show up at this job ANY day.  And even when they do they can show up and vote then go back home. 

      If that’s a job that doesn’t “pay that well” then I must be a fucking slave.  I’d love to get six figures for a job where phoning it in is considered overachieving.

      1. “While the partisan composition of the Congress is fairly close to that of the electorate, there are larger disparities between the Congress and the general citizenry in term of sex and race. In the House, there are currently 362 men and 76 women. In the Senate, there are 17 women and 83 men. “

  9. I guess that the insider trading/land deals “business opportunities” that are exclusively available to current members of Congress are sadly not profitable enough:

    Even after they water down the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act), these poor people are just barely scraping by.

    Maybe they could get the wonderful House and Senate Ethics Committees to OK table-dancing, street corner hustling and drug dealing too, for the poor members of Congress, it’s obvious that they don’t have money to subsist on, they need more illicit job opportunities legalized exclusively for them!

    Lobbying? It’s the heart-breaking fate of many a former congressman/woman….
    And you know, lobbying is just a heartbeat from the horror of… Public Relations!
    Can we do anything to prevent such a tragedy?

    Luckily, YOU can help! They wouldn’t have gotten this far without acting skills, so you can be entertained (disturbed?) as you help a worthy cause!

    (for charity…  their wallets)

  10. Representative Democracy has been dead for a while now in the West.

    Mostly it’s just the political version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’; deceased but still flapping around keeping up the pretence.

  11. Can we just switch to sortition already? Though, the standard of education would need to be raised by a significant degree in order for this to work.

  12. Conflict of Interest and Corruption American Style.

    In any other profession, that behavior would make a concerned colleague blow the whistle on you. You would have a lot of explaining to do. There would be scandal and your reputation could be ruined. You could be facing an ethics committee and lawsuits if somebody felt cheated by you.

    Not so in the most sensitive of all posts of public representation.

    It’s not about raising their salary, it’s more than high enough. Good people would do a good job for much less and not so good people… can’t be made good with more money.

    Maybe it’s time to drop most provisions that prevent lawsuits against Congresspeople.

Comments are closed.