Don't treat all former lobbyists alike

Letters to the Editor

March 18, 2011 — Your research seems inaccurate (never mind the premise that people continue to represent issues after they cease to be paid for doing so). Several of the people on your list had careers as staff much earlier than cited on the list. Some also had very brief stints in the private sector in between Congressional staff jobs. Indicating that they were only trying to make a living while actively seeking to return to public service.

The revolving door issue where someone takes a staff position to then return to a similar position they left earlier is a different and potentially valid issue.

I think your premise that public disclosure of this type of information is good is also valid. But the assumption that any paid position is indicative of a “shadow” government that is somehow inherently corrupt is not connected to the reality of how most elected officials and their staff come to policy judgments. That analysis doesn’t lend itself to a handy chart and press release.

The idea that a former lobbyist for Amnesty International is somehow a nefarious influence on a Republican member of Congress? There is more to research and disclosure than Google, how about a little more thought into who these people actually are rather than the blast approach.

Thanks, otherwise enjoy the snapshots of information you provide.

Robert Harmala (Washington, DC)

Editor’s note: We invite readers to supplement and correct data that has been posted. As for equivalence between and among different kinds of lobbyists, we noted in a press release at the time that we thought it was important to identify potential revolving door risks especially in connection with former lobbyists who had been serving a narrow private interest rather than a broad public interest. And we agree that the publication of a list is the beginning of the story, not the end of the story.

Send a letter to the editor