Our readers no doubt remember our recent post on George Bush political lackey Mark Racicot being curbed by the American Insurance Association from his $1.8 million dollar a year job with them. Our take was vastly different from the Kool Aid being served by AIA at the time. Today, the New York Times picks up the story and puts a slabbed like analysis on the recent turnover on K Street:
Richard Hunt, a top Republican lobbyist for the securities industry, was among the first to go, just a week after the election. Marc Racicot, the president of the American Insurance Association and former Republican Party chairman, resigned a few days later. So did Frank L. Bowman, the retired admiral and Republican-leaning chief of the nuclear energy lobby, citing “this period of dramatic change in Congress and the White House.”
All were casualties of a broad shake-up of the lobbying world set off by the Democratic ascendance in Congress and at the White House. Republican lobbyists are feeling the demand for their services plummet as struggling businesses slash their lobbying budgets, the outgoing Bush administration hemorrhages résumés, and their party retreats to its lowest ebb of power since the election of President Jimmy Carter 32 years ago.
“This is rather unique — much more difficult for Republicans than in past transitions,” said Eric Vautour, a former Reagan administration official who recruits former officials for lobbying jobs.
After eight years of the so-called K Street Project — the effort by Republican lawmakers and operatives to pressure companies, trade associations and lobbying firms to hire their fellow Republicans — the tasseled loafer is on the other foot. Companies and interest groups are competing to snap up Democrats. And scarcity has added to their value because so many well-connected Democrats are angling for jobs in the Obama administration, which has promised ethics rules that may block lobbyists from certain jobs. Meanwhile, recently passed Congressional ethics rules restrict the ability of departing Congressional staff members to lobby as well.
“The Democratic market is kind of frozen, while the Republican market is about to be engorged” with former Bush staff members, said Tony Podesta, founder of the Podesta Group, a major lobbying firm.
The starting salaries for former officials tell the story. An assistant department secretary leaving the Bush administration three years ago, with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House, might fetch as much $600,000 to $1 million a year in the influence business, recruiters and lobbyists said. But the same person might now expect less than half as much.
“Don’t be the last guy off the train,” said Peter Metzger, vice chairman of the recruiting firm CT Partners, recalling his advice to government officials considering other work in Washington.