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The Dizzying Spin of the Revolving Door

On Tuesday, a former congressional staffer on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mark Zachares, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the public by accepting gifts and promises of a high-paying lobbying job on K Street in exchange for official favors for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

Zachares's conviction stems from one of the most powerful tools for buying influence on Capitol Hill: the revolving door, in which lucrative lobbying jobs in the private sector are offered to public officials, oftentimes to win legislative favors for clients.

Zachares joins a growing list of congressional and executive branch officials who have been convicted for revolving door corruption such as Tony Rudy and Neil Volz, former senior staffers to retired Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and imprisoned Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), respectively and an even larger list of former officials shrouded in scandal such as former Rep. Bill Tauzin (R.-Louis.) for immediately spinning through the revolving door after leaving public service.

Despite the fact that there is a one-year cooling-off period in which former officials are not supposed to make lobbying contacts with the former colleagues, the current revolving door restriction is an abysmal failure. Of members of Congress who left office between 1998 and 2004, 43 percent went on to become lobbyists 42 percent of ex-House members and 50 percent of ex-Senators. By July 2005, only six months after the end of the 108th Congress, 18 departed members from that Congress had announced accepting jobs with lobbying firms. Four actually registered as federal lobbyists within their first year of leaving Congress. After the last Administration, about a quarter of senior cabinet officials moved into private employment as lobbyists.

The heart and soul of the problem is that former officials are currently prohibited only from making lobbying contacts picking up the telephone and calling their former colleagues during the cooling off period. All other paid lobbying activity during this period-- the planning, strategizing and supervising lobbying campaigns-- is unrestricted immediately after leaving public office.

Never before have we seen the revolving door spin so wildly out of control. It permeates the culture on Capitol Hill, vastly increasing the opportunities for corruption, and sharply diminishing the publics confidence in the federal government.

Resonable reforms must be put into place. Otherwise the revolving door, which raises so much public suspicion about conflicts of interest, will remain in spin mode.

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Dr. Gene Nelson

These leaders associated directly or indirectly with lobbyist Jack Abramoff are not a part of the 110th Congress: Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-CA), Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-NY), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH).

For details, use "Abramoff" as a search term in the CQPolitics website. Unfortunately, some leaders apparently did not learn this lesson.

First, as a bit of background, here is how Watchdog Blog readers may confirm that Microsoft lobbyist Jack Abramoff lobbied for expansion of the harmful H-1B visa program in 1998.

In 1998, Microsoft lobbyist Jack Abramoff lobbied former U.S. Representative - and Majority Whip Tom DeLay's office for expansion of this controversial visa program as shown in disclosures posted at the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records. Here is the process to see them...

Go to http://sopr.senate.gov/.

Select the link to view lobbyist disclosure records. Use "Abramoff" as the lobbyist name. Select "Jack Abramoff" as the lobbyist name. Then view line 22, which is the 1998 mid-year report for Microsoft Corporation. Page one of this report shows that Microsoft paid Abramoff $360,000 for six months (or $60K/month). Then, go to page six of 11. The reader will learn that DeLay's office was lobbied by Abramoff regarding "H.R. 3736, The Workforce program and S.1723 American Competitiveness Act (sic), all provisions relating to the H-1B visa program." William Jarrell, Rep. DeLay's former Deputy Chief of Staff was lobbyist.

Nonpartisan site http://www.PublicIntegrity.org provides documentation of the $46,020,000 that Microsoft Corporation has spent on lobbying between 1998 and 2004. Add the $15,420,453 in campaign donations at http://www.OpenSecrets.org since about 1998. In exchange for these funds, Microsoft has been able to save billions annually in salary and benefit avoidances. http://www.H1b.info shows over 4,327 H-1Bs directly employed by Microsoft between 2001 and 2003. (Many more are hired via contractors such as Tata, Infosys, Satyam, etc.)

Thus, there were "Things of Value" provided in exchange for "Official Acts." However, 18 U. S. C. §201(c)(1)(A), prohibits giving "anything of value" to a present, past, or future public official "for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official."

D. mancino

This is the kid of garbage that has been going on to long.
Te American people are going to unite like the labor movement of the 1940's to disslodge this type of activities.
On Tuesday, a former congressional staffer on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mark Zachares, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the public by accepting gifts and promises of a high-paying lobbying job on K Street in exchange for official favors for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

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