Barack Obama shunned political contributions from lobbyists and, on his second day as president, announced new ethics rules to reduce their influence. Republican nominee John McCain disdained lobbyists as “birds of prey.”
Still, about one-quarter of the House and Senate members who retired or lost elections last year have found new jobs with lobbying firms, where business is booming as Obama pushes for multitrillion-dollar changes in federal banking, health care, energy and military procurement policies.
Former appropriations chairman Bob Livingston, a Louisiana Republican who left the House 10 years ago, leads a firm that was paid $9 million last year by such clients as Hamilton, Bermuda-based Accenture Ltd., and Redwood City, California-based Oracle Corp. Former Senate Majority Leaders George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, and Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican, both registered as lobbyists.
“It is a natural progression, and it is not an unhealthy one,” said Jim Greenwood, 57, a Republican who represented a Pennsylvania House district until 2005 and now heads the Biotechnology Industry Association. “I know how lawmakers think, what they need to make good decisions, what’s counterproductive, and what’s reasonable to ask and what’s not reasonable.”