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Washington’s ‘Revolving Door’

OpenSecrets.org Monitors

Washington’s ‘Revolving Door’

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With the capital’s post-election ‘NBA draft’ in full swing, a new online database tracks the public and private employment of 6,400 well-connected individuals

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WASHINGTON – As Congress debates ways to slow the “revolving door” between Capitol Hill and K Street lobbying firms, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has added a new feature to its award-winning Web site, OpenSecrets.org, that profiles more than 6,400 individuals who have worked in both the federal government and the private sector.

Freely available to the public, the Revolving Door Database is the most comprehensive source to date for learning who’s who in the Washington influence industry, and for uncovering how these people’s government connections afford them privileged access to those in power. Users can see, for example, which federal regulators are now working for the industries they once oversaw and which lobbyists might be capitalizing on their past employment with congressional committees that award government contracts, subsidies, earmarked appropriations and tax breaks.

“There’s a backstory to every law, regulation and government contract, and OpenSecrets.org’s Revolving Door Database helps tell those stories,” said the Center’s Executive Director, Sheila Krumholz. “With the shift in power in Congress, Washington’s version of the NBA draft is underway right now. People are trading on their connections to score plum jobs, and sometimes that makes for cozy relationships between government and private interests that affect the rest of us.”

About 70% of the individuals in the Revolving Door Database are registered lobbyists. The remainder currently work at law and public relations firms, industry trade associations or unions, where their jobs may entail lobbying, formally or informally. Although the movement between the public and private sectors is commonly described as a revolving door, the database demonstrates that the phenomenon could be more aptly described as a one-way exit. Nearly all of the individuals in the database currently work in the private sector following jobs in government, which are typically less lucrative.

The people profiled in the Revolving Door Database have worked in approximately 1,200 congressional offices and more than 350 executive branch agencies and judicial courts. In the private sector, they have been employed by nearly 2,000 lobbying, law or public relations firms and other organizations.

More individuals currently in the database have worked at the White House than anywhere else in government, from the Ford administration through the current Bush administration. After the White House and the House of Representatives, the federal agency with the most records in the database is the Federal Communications Commission. Often criticized for favoring the telecommunications industry over consumers and the public interest, the FCC has employed more than 100 individuals who now work in the private sector—many of them on telecom matters—according to lobbying disclosure reports and other sources. The FCC-connected individuals in OpenSecrets.org’s database range from former commissioners now lobbying for telecom companies to chiefs of FCC bureaus who have become telecom executives.

Researchers at the Center for Responsive Politics compiled data for the Revolving Door site from a variety of sources. The primary source for the core data was Columbia Books’s comprehensive directory of federal lobbyists, Washington Representatives. CRP researchers combined that data with publicly available information, such as lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records, and other resources. As with all databases on OpenSecrets.org, the Revolving Door will be continually refined, and the Center welcomes suggestions, corrections and tips by e-mail to revdoor@crp.org.

“The intent in this project is not to accuse individuals of benefiting from a conflict of interest,” said Tim La Pira, the database’s lead researcher. “We have identified relationships that we think the public should be aware of, and we leave it to our users to interpret what we’ve found.”OpenSecrets.org’s Revolving Door Database was made possible by a grant to the Center for Responsive Politics from the Sunlight Foundation, which supports using new information technologies to ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, help reduce corruption and foster public trust in the institutions of democracy. The Sunlight Foundation also funded three tools that the Center launched on OpenSecrets.org in 2006: a database that tracks spending on federal lobbying, another that makes financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress fully searchable and a third tool that tracks lawmakers’ privately sponsored trips around the world.The direct Web address for the new Revolving Door Database is http://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/.#  #  #

About the Center for Responsive Politics

The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Founded in 1983, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. CRP’s award-winning Web site, OpenSecrets.org, is the most comprehensive resource for campaign contributions and analysis available anywhere. Support for CRP comes from a combination of foundation grants and individual contributions. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.

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