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Law firms and lobbying shops are preparing for a flood of résumés from soon-to-be unemployed Members, as popular discontent and, ultimately, November voters push lawmakers toward the exits.
Making the move from Capitol Hill to K Street is becoming a well-worn path for pink-slipped and retiring Members. With 19 Members already throwing in the towel this cycle and many more likely to come after Election Day K Streets top firms will have their pick of the litter.
There are some well-qualified Members who are retiring who are capable of making the transition downtown, said Korn/Ferry Internationals Nels Olson, a K Street headhunter.
Last cycle several lawmakers headed downtown for more lucrative gigs, including former Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), who landed at Dickstein Shapiro after a primary loss to now-Rep. Donna Edwards; and former Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) who quit for a high-paying position as president and CEO of the Managed Funds Association.
In 2008, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) transitioned virtually overnight from veteran lawmaker to wealthy influence peddler at the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a firm that he started with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).
Lotts small firm brought in more than $10 million in revenue last year, according to Senate lobbying disclosure records.
Among the retiring Members this cycle, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a Blue Dog Coalition co-founder, is considered the hottest prospect. Known as a deal-maker, Tanner has been a leader for the powerful voting bloc of fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrats.
Other retiring moderate Democratic war horses, such as Reps. Vic Snyder (Ark.), Marion Berry (Ark.) and Bart Gordon (Tenn.), may also soon be fielding generous offers.
Veteran Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.), along with centrist Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), are seen as potential K Street pickups for contract firms or trade associations.
A former appropriator and current Democratic Policy Committee chairman, Dorgan has many of the qualities that K Street firms are looking for, including expertise in energy issues as climate change legislation pushes forward. Dorgan, who has signaled his interest in staying involved in energy policy post-Senate, also served as North Dakota tax commissioner for 10 years before being elected to the House. And Dorgan is no stranger to the influence business: His wife, Kimberly Dorgan, is a senior vice president at the American Council of Life Insurers.
Although Dodd distanced himself from the financial services industry over the past year as he geared up for a re-election campaign that was to be the political fight of his career, lobbyists said they believe he still has a strong cache downtown, particularly given his expertise not only on Wall Street, but also in health care policy.
Gregg, ranking member on the Budget Committee, is also seen as a hot commodity downtown. Nominated to be Commerce secretary by President Barack Obama before withdrawing his name, Gregg is widely seen as being able to work with both parties, a draw for trade associations looking for executives who are able to weather changing political tides.
But perhaps even more attractive than the now-known crop of Congressional free agents are the dozens of other Members who may lose their jobs when the polls close Nov. 2.