In December, ThinkProgress first reported that at least 13 new Republican lawmakers had hired corporate lobbyists as their chiefs of staff. An investigation published by The Hill’s Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven reveals that a large number of corporate lobbyists have left lucrative jobs on K Street to manage the staff for important committees and top Republican politicians.
One notable revelation from The Hill story relates to the fact that well-paid corporate lobbyists now occupy key positions at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees pivotal healthcare and energy regulations. Another interesting fact is that a single corporate lobbying firm, called Navigators Global, has its lobbyists running the offices of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). The two Tea Party politicians apparently thought that influence-peddlers from the same firm would best advance their interests:
Cesar Conda made $376,000 from Navigators Global in salary last year, according to his financial disclosure report. He is now Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) chief of staff.
Conda’s former colleague at Navigators, Don Kent, now chief of staff to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), made more than $227,000 in his bonus and salary last year from the firm.
Rubio’s chief of staff, Cesar Conda, worked at Navigators Global on accounts related to AT&T;, PG&E;, New York Life Insurance, and other companies. Don Kent, Johnson’s number two, represented CSX, UPS, and several biotech and computer science firms. Navigators Global, a lobbying firm that still represents many of the same clients as well as private prison companies and investment banks, brags that it not only does “insider” lobbying, but also public campaigns as well. For instance, the firm set up a front group for oil speculators to kill efforts to regulate the scope of excessive oil speculation back in 2008. A chief of staff is the most important position on Capitol Hill outside of elected office. They are typically responsible for representing their boss at meetings, making staffing decisions, and helping the lawmaker decide how to cast a vote. It is not clear if Rubio or Johnson has an office policy for their lobbyist chiefs of staff. Are they allowed to still communicate with their former clients? Do they still collaborate with their colleagues at Navigators Global? Is there any sort of firewall to ensure they have stopped selling influence while working as a public servant?