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Weight in the lobby: Jobs and cash still rule in Washington

A new study found 400 former lawmakers took jobs as federal lobbyists. And Hill staff members also found lucrative work on K Street. To restore the integrity of Congress, more reforms are needed to curb this exploitative practice and corrupting influence.

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To raise Congress’s low standing will require that it raise its integrity.

That need is even more urgent with news that nearly 400 former US lawmakers took up lucrative jobs as federal lobbyists over the past decade.

And joining them in this dubious revolving door were more than 5,000 former congressional staff members who also cashed in on their connections to Capitol Hill by being hired as influence peddlers for special interests represented by Washington’s K Street firms.

Meanwhile, according to the Center for Public Integrity, 605 former lobbyists went to work for lawmakers during that same period.

While many of these individuals believed they were still working in the public interest, the appearance of undue influence and big-money politics is too high to let such practices persist. In fact, efforts are expected this fall to improve on recent progress in rules regarding lobbying.

The 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, for example, needs to be changed to broaden the definition of lobbyist to include such jobs as public relations consultants who work on pending legislation or regulations. And the ties between lobbyists and raising campaign money need to be broken. Those ties are easy to make given that there are nearly 12,000 federally registered lobbyists (and untold more who act behind the scenes indirectly).

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