One of Capitol Hill's most popular new Democrats on Thursday called for a total ban on the revolving door that allows lawmakers to jump from Congress into K Street lobbying firms as soon as they leave office.
In a tweet, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that former members of Congress "shouldn't be allowed to turn right around and leverage your service for a lobbyist check."
"I don't think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you've served in Congress," said Ocasio-Cortez. "At minimum there should be a long wait period."
After the Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm elections, 44 federal lawmakers left office. A Public Citizen analysis, released Thursday, found that of those 44, 26 "were working for lobbying firms, consulting firms, trade groups or business groups working to influence federal government activities."
Among those that made the switch are former Rep. Joe Crowley, the Democrat who Ocasio-Cortez unseated, and former Rep. Mike Capuano, a Suffolk County, Massachusetts Democrat whose progressive credentials weren't enough to stop now-Rep. Ayanna Pressley from besting him in the 2018 Democratic primary.
Former legislators like Crowley and Capuano came in for criticism from Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. In a statement, Weissman took aim at what the revolving door does to Washington politics.
"No lawmaker should be cashing in on their public service and selling their contacts and expertise to the highest bidder," said Weissman. "Retired or defeated lawmakers should not serve as sherpas for corporate interests who are trying to write federal policy in their favor."
"We need to close the revolving door and enact fundamental and far-reaching reforms to our corrupt political system," Weissman added.
In the study, Public Citizen provides a path toward fixing the problem.
Several pieces of legislation would strengthen these ethics laws for former government officials. The For the People Act (H.R. 1), which passed the House of Representatives in March, enacts sweeping reforms that would raise ethics standards at all levels of government. Importantly, H.R. 1 would define "strategic consulting" as lobbying for former members of Congress, subjecting this activity to the existing revolving door restrictions. The legislation would also bar former executive branch officials from doing "strategic consulting" on behalf of a lobbying campaign as well as making direct lobbying contacts for two years after leaving government service.
But, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out in a series of tweets, there's more to consider than just banning—or at the least delaying—lawmaker entrance into lobbying firms. The nature of congressional pay and the necessities of the work, Ocasio-Cortez said, make the easy money of lobbying very attractive to members of Congress.
"Keeping it real," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "the elephant in the room with passing a lobbying ban on members requires a nearly-impossible discussion about congressional pay."