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Democratic Job Prospects Dim on K Street

Still, some Democratic aides have already secured positions in the private sector before the expected market saturation can hit. Winning Strategies Washington announced Monday that Kristen Michaels, lead appropriations staffer for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), had joined its staff.

Others who were working for retiring Members have already exited, such as Kirstin Brost, who served as communications director for Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (Conn.) but is now at SpaceX, a space exploration company. Corey Ealons, the former deputy chief of staff for Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) who most recently served as the White House’s director of African-American media, also just made a move to VOX Global, a public affairs firm.

K Streeters said a tightened job market might cause Democratic aides to rethink their hesitation about working for controversial industries.

So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The for-profit school industry has been under fire by the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats over its business practices and is seeking D.C. lobbyists. At least one Democratic lobbyist said that Hill aides from the party have rejected the job.

“They are looking to revamp their image and bulk up their presence here in Washington,” the lobbyist said. “But after having a conversation with people ... most of the Democrats said, ‘I can’t touch that one.’”

Democratic aides may take a cue from their Republican counterparts. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans found themselves in a similar position. After Democrats won the House in 2006, the job market significantly tightened, and many former GOP staffers left the Beltway completely.

With few firms looking to bulk up on Republicans, many who wanted to stay in D.C. started their own ventures.

Take Graham Hill, for example.

The former Republican staff director on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, and Clayton Heil, who was deputy staff director and general counsel to the Senate Appropriations Committee and an aide to the panel’s former chairman, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), started a firm, Ice Miller Strategies, that is affiliated with the Indiana law firm Ice Miller.

Since then, the shop has become bipartisan, with two Democrats signing on.

“From our point of view, it’s your skills, knowledge base, work ethic and personality, at least for us, that are more important than party affiliation,” Graham said.

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