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Once again, Illinois is on a “worst” list

Monday, Jul 22, 2019

* Public Citizen on federal and state revolving door laws

More importantly, a dozen states have taken measures to close the “strategic consulting” loophole that runs rampant at the federal level. Under federal revolving door restrictions, former officials are only required to avoid making “lobbying contacts” during the cooling-off period. Federal officials remain free to advise, design and run lobbying campaigns on behalf of paying clients or lobbying firms immediately after leaving public office as long as they do not personally contact government officials – a loophole that is heavily exploited by many officials and staff. Furthermore, these same former officials may often lobby officials at agencies of a branch of government in which they did not serve. Several states address these problems by banning “lobbying activity” as well as “lobbying contacts.”

Finally, most states that regulate the revolving door do so for both the legislative and executive branches of government as well as for senior staff in a decision-making capacity. Just as importantly, some states have closed the loophole at the federal level that allows former lawmakers to lobby the other branch of government immediately after leaving office. These states prohibit former officials from lobbying any agency of the executive branch or legislative body for a period of time after leaving office.

Overall, Iowa has the “best” revolving door policy, with a two-year cooling off period that applies to both legislative and executive officials and staff, and broadly prohibits both “lobbying activity” as well as “lobbying contacts” during the cooling off period. Maryland is a close runner-up, except that its revolving door restriction only applies to legislators and has a short one-year cooling off period. Nevertheless, in Maryland former legislators may not seek to influence the official actions of anyone in government for compensation for one year after leaving public office. […]

The “worst” states in terms of revolving door policies are easier to identify: Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming have no restrictions whatsoever on lobbying and influence peddling by former public officials and staff.

* Recommendations

Extending all cooling-off periods to a minimum of two years – at least a full congressional cycle – and preferably even longer, so as to allow the inside connections to sitting government officials and staff to fade.

Banning compensation for “lobbying activity,” such as of conducting research, preparation, planning and supervision of a lobbying campaign, as well as banning “lobbying contacts” during the cooling-off period.

Applying the ban on lobbying by former elected officials and very senior staff across the board to all agencies and both the legislative and executive branches of government during the cooling-off period.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    Are they not counting executive orders, like 15-09?


  2. - NME - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 1:48 pm:

    “…have no restrictions whatsoever on lobbying and influence peddling by former public officials and staff.”

    Any IG can tell you this statement is not true in Ilinois.


  3. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 1:48 pm:

    I think some of these proposed restrictions would very difficult to enforce. Where there’s a rule, there’s a loophole.


  4. - Juvenal - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 1:50 pm:

    The claim that Illinois has no restrictions on staff is flat-out untrue.

    Which intern did this report?


  5. - phocion - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    “Worst” is certainly a subjective term here. It may not be popular to note this, but revolving door rules can have some pretty negative consequences on good government. How does the government expect to attract the highest caliber talent for its relatively low paying jobs when it prohibits those same people from employment opportunities after their government service? How can some firms build up an expert team to understand how to bid and operate effectively with a client when that client’s former employees are precluded from working for them? Are professional relationships fostered when you can only communicate with people who have no idea of how your agency or your company or your industry operates? There are ways to root out outright corrupt public acts, but these rules throw the baby out with the bath water.


  6. - OutOfState - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    It seems silly to ask former legislators not to work in the legislative process after they leave office when current legislators are allowed to work in the industries they regulate. That fact isn’t always bad either. In healthcare legislation, it’s probably helpful to have a doctor or two help shape legislation. Same with farmers or small business owners.

    Plus, to phocion’s point, a revolving door is not equivalent to corrupt motives, which is the ultimate issue with these laws. The Venn diagram of corrupt intent, conflicts of interest, and revolving door behavior don’t form a circle. Thus, trying to ban one or two of those groups will hurt honest, skilled people on the one hand, and leave loopholes open on the other.


  7. - Powdered Whig - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 2:35 pm:

    So basically this group would like to see all former staff out of the business of government affairs. Who can afford to take two years off after leaving a staff position before being able to lobby? This all seems like an unreasonable restriction on someone’s ability to make a living. Why don’t they focus their efforts on stopping corrupt behavior instead of lumping all former legislators/staffers into one pot.


  8. - Illini fan - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 2:42 pm:

    I am with you Powdered. Disallowing staff is going too far


  9. - Powdered Whig - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 2:55 pm:

    From the report:

    “Public officials-turned-lobbyists will have access to lawmakers that is not available to others, access that can be sold to the highest bidder among industries seeking to lobby.”

    Isn’t that the point? - Hiring people with relationships with legislators in order to be able to advocate your position?


  10. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 4:06 pm:

    The lack of any restrictions whatsoever is absolutely true for legislators and it should stop. I appreciate the some former staffers are fact-checking here, but the complete absence of restrictions on former lawmakers that allows a legislator to quit on Friday and lobby their former colleagues on Monday has been abused repeatedly. It needs to be changed.


  11. - Soccermom - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 4:58 pm:

    This is just not true. The restrictions on staff can be onerous.


  12. - Soccermom - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 5:00 pm:

    And the restrictions aren’t just on lobbying. I don’t think staff can take jobs with any organization that they’ve engaged with while in office. For some people, leaving the administration means leaving the state.


  13. - Chicagonk - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 5:05 pm:

    Restrictions on staff will make it more difficult to recruit good staff members (especially if the restrictions are broad), but I am for strengthening restrictions on members.


  14. - SAP - Monday, Jul 22, 19 @ 5:43 pm:

    The restrictions on staff are quite onerous. There ought to be a ratio so that the restriction on former staff lobbying is one have as long as the period for former legislators.


  15. - anon2 - Tuesday, Jul 23, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    Some limit on legislators should be adopted, but won’t be because members on both sides of the aisle want the chance to cash in the day after retirement.


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