California Lawmakers Find The Grass Greener on K Street

California Lawmakers Find The Grass Greener on K Street

More and more California lawmakers are jumping from congressional and state lawmaker seats to join high powered lobbyist firms on K Street.

Former congressman Vic Fazio from Sacramento, Republicans Dan Lungren and John Doolittle are but a few of those enjoying the spoils from their former positions of power and are raking in greater earnings than when they were government employees.

LegiStorm, an online disclosure database, revealed that since 2000 over 400 former members of Congress have worked as lobbyists. Ironically, it is the congressional staffers who are the lifeblood of the industry. The Sacramento Bee reported that 7,000 staffers have gone to K Street in the same period.

The Lobbying jobs are very attractive from a compensation standpoint, especially for staffers who are only paid $30,000 while working for a congressional member. In fact lobbyist compensation often exceeds the average $174,000 that a congressman earns.

Fazio is tearing it up at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a K Street giant that that leads all other lobbying firms in revenues. AT&T, PG&E, Burger King, Wall Street firms and Indian tribes all call upon him to help them improve their bottom line.

The twenty year congressman (1979- 1999) admits that his role as lobbyist is a lot like being a defense lawyer. He explained to the Bee that you are paid to represent your clients. “It’s not a matter of your personal preference at that point,” Fazio said.

Steve Billet, director of the Legislative Affairs Program at George Washington University’s graduate school, says that their new job is different than what they were use to. “I think they understand going in they may find themselves working for groups or issues they were not associated with,” he said. Lawmakers are not just endorsing their pet projects.

Lungren may be an exception to the rule. After spending the last couple years in retirement, being with his family, taking singing lessons, and attending to a knee surgery, he established a boutique lobbying firm dedicated exclusively to one client, Fairfax 2015.

“It’s more of a low-key thing,” Lungren said in an interview. “I’m about as far from K Street as you can be.”

Lungren and his partner Brian Lopina, a former chief of staff to former Republican Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, spend their energies promoting Fairfax 2015, a competition between firemen and policeman in an Olympic style setting. According to the Bee , Fairfax 2015 expects to draw 12,000 competitors from 70 countries to Washington D.C..