Revolving Door of Corporate Influence

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    I was sad to see that Virginia’s former 9th District congressman, Rick Boucher, has taken what has become a predictable route for former members of Congress. He will be joining a high-powered law and lobbying firm as a partner, making, I am sure, a seven-figure income. After 28 years in the House of Representatives, Boucher will become the head of Sidley Austin LLP’s government strategies division at their Washington office. So, Boucher follows the far-too-common route for ex-members of Congress: cash in their experience for big bucks as a paid shill for big business.

    Sidley Austin LLP is one of the world’s top full-service law firms, with more than 1600 lawyers practicing in 17 U.S. and international cities. Note that term “full-service” includes both advising clients how to deal with governmental regulation and how to effectively lobby Congress and the White House to get legislation favorable to their positions.

    Boucher said his work will not be in lobbying members of Congress in a traditional sense, but in “advising clients on strategies for dealing with government” to address their problems in his areas of expertise: telecommunications policy, climate change, energy, and the environment. Boucher cannot lobby directly for one year. After that, he’s free to call in every favor he did for the guys he served with in Congress.

    For those who wonder exactly what is broken in our political system today, unfortunately Boucher stands as a prime example. He is simply the latest former politician who is cashing in on his public service by enlisting in the army of servants of the corporate elite that runs this nation. Those of us outside this tight little circle that determines public policy for its own advantage have no comparable structure, no people who dedicate themselves to our interests after their public service. Besides Boucher, Sidley Austin has other very high-powered people on its payroll, including a former general counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Roger Martella will be working with Boucher. He was general counsel of the EPA during the Bush administration. According to the Sidley Austin website he will “advise companies on developing strategic approaches to achieve their goals in light of rapidly developing demands to address climate change, promote sustainability, and utilize clean energy.”  Somehow, I don’t think his advice will be on how to lessen climate change and actually promote clean energy.

    On their website Sidley Austin also brags that they have on board:

       a former U.S. Congressman who served with distinction on the U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Energy & Commerce and the Judiciary (that’s Boucher);

       the former Acting General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services;

       the former Acting Chief Counsel of the Food and Drug Administration;

       the former Acting U.S. Attorney General;

       the former General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency (that’s Martella);

       four former Associate White House counsels;

       the former General Counsel of the Office of Management and Budget;

       the former Legislative Counsel and Parliamentarian to the House Energy & Commerce Committee;

       former House Energy and Commerce Committee Professional Staff.

    These are the forces of status quo. They are formidable. Those of us who want to work for change have our work cut out for us.