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Report: ND Lobbying Law Could Be Model for Congress

Public Citizen found nearly two-thirds of former members of Congress have gone on to work for groups that seek to influence federal policies. (dima_sidelnikov/Adobe Stock)
Public Citizen found nearly two-thirds of former members of Congress have gone on to work for groups that seek to influence federal policies. (dima_sidelnikov/Adobe Stock)
July 24, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. - When members of Congress leave office, an industry lobbying role often is in their future. A new report says states such as North Dakota could provide a model to help the federal government slow this revolving door.

The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen applauded North Dakota and two other states for their strong restrictions on lobbying after lawmakers leave office. Report co-author Craig Holman, Public Citizen's government-affairs lobbyist, said the ethics measure passed by voters in November prohibits former officials from influencing public policy during a two-year "cooling off" period.

"And it not only has a longer cooling-off period," he said, "it also just prohibits - during that two-year cooling-off period - former elected officials from doing any kind of lobbying activity."

Holman said this kind of reform would close a loophole that allows former lawmakers to become lobbyists so long as they avoid directly lobbying to people in office. This year, Public Citizen found nearly two-thirds of former members of Congress have gone on to work for groups that seek to influence federal policies, including lobbying firms, consulting firms, trade groups and business groups.

Holman called the pipeline of former lawmakers into lobbying jobs "one of the most pernicious influence-peddling schemes available to wealthy special interests," adding that a lucrative job after leaving office has the potential to corrupt politicians.

"If he or she curries favor with that special employer, special interest," he said, "it's hard to make sure that the officeholder is acting on behalf of the public interest, rather than his or her own interest."

While the U.S. Senate has a two-year cooling-off period for for lobbying activities, it remains only one year for the House. Holman said the minimum should be at least two years, because that's the length of a legislative session and it takes at least that long for old staff contacts to turn over. Florida lawmakers recently passed a six-year cooling-off period - the longest to date.

The report is online at citizen.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND