David Moulton, who has served on Capitol Hill for more than a quarter-century, most of it working for Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is retiring from his post as staff director of the House Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee. He will be replaced by Gerry Waldron, who comes back to Congress from a law firm and who also is a grizzled Hill veteran.
Comings and goings in Congress are frequent occurrences, of course. I write about this because 20- and 30-year Hill careers used to be the norm in personal and committee offices, but no longer. Far more typical now is to find staffers who put in a few years and then leave. Some younger ones go to law, business or graduate school, others leave to work in an administration, but many more to go into the lobbying business in one form or another, usually at several multiples of their Congressional salaries. They join the many former lawmakers who do exactly the same thing. It is also striking to see someone who did leave give up the high salaries of a major law firm to return to the Hill.
It is a characteristic of the most effective Members of Congress that they attract and retain (and sometimes re-attract) the best and brightest people and use them to enhance their own scope, assets and leverage inside Congress. Markey is unquestionably one of these, with a longtime great staff of impressive loyalty and longevity. So too are his Energy and Commerce colleagues Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), both of whom have managed to lure back highly paid lawyers and lobbyists to work for them in the majority, and if anything have expanded the breadth and depth of their already considerable influence.
All over the Hill, from legendary Senator and boss Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — whose legislative director, Carey Parker, was there when I came to the Hill more than 38 years ago! — to top-flight Senators such as Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), one finds smart, loyal and committed staffers who find fulfillment working for people they believe in, and therefore are willing to ignore for decades the lure of much higher pay.
One of the reasons people such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) were able to make their presidential runs is the deep, strong, veteran, loyal staffers they have attracted and kept over their Senate careers. (For Clinton, that includes people who worked for her in the White House and decided to come back when she got elected to the Senate.)