"Is Lott Negotiating A Future Lobbying Position In Violation Of Senate Ethics Rules?"
After Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) announced his resignation this week, it was widely speculated that Lott was quitting in order to dodge Senate ethics standards that take effect next year. The new rules require senators to wait two years before entering “the lucrative world” of lobbying Congress. Lott denied the rumor at a press conference, saying the new law “didn’t have a big role” in his decision.
At the same press conference, Lott was also asked about Senate ethics rules regarding “negotiating with a future employer,” to which he replied that he’s “not really involved in negotiation,” but that “there are some opportunities out there” that he wants “to be able to consider”:
QUESTION: Senator, I understand there’s a rule in the Senate that if you’re negotiating with a future employer, that you must register with the Ethics Committee. Have you been down to that committee yet?
LOTT: Well, I have not yet, but I’m not really involved in negotiation. I’ve tried to stay away from that. There are some opportunities out there that I want to be able to consider, but I have nothing that we’ve agreed to or lined up.
One of the “opportunities” that Lott is considering, according to his son, Chester Lott — who is also a lobbyist — is “a partnership” with former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), who until today, was the senior counsel at a powerhouse lobbying firm. But just this afternoon, Breaux announced that he was leaving Patton Boggs in order “to form his own firm with his son, John Jr.”:
Former United States Senator John Breaux, Senior Counsel to Patton Boggs Law Firm, announced that he would be forming a new public policy consulting firm in January 2008.
Breaux stated that while he has the greatest personal and professional respect for Tom Boggs and the members of the company, the new firm will offer him an opportunity to be in business with his son, John Jr., a goal that he has always wanted to achieve.
Though the younger Lott told Legal Times that there have “been no formal talks at all” between the two senators, he also added that “Breaux and his father have long joked about the prospect of working together.”
If Lott is indeed considering “a partnership” with Breaux — speculation of which Breaux’s move fuels — then their plans may have been another factor in the timing of his resignation. The new ethics rules that take effect at the end of the current session have much more stringent regulations about negotiating future employment with lobbyists:
If Senators want to engage in negotiations or make any arrangements for jobs involving lobbying, they must wait to do so until their successors have been elected. There are no exceptions to this rule.
If Lott had resigned next year, he would have had to wait until after his successor is elected to even begin negotiating his future lobbying job, which means he may have needed to wait almost a year to start cashing in with his old buddy Breaux.