Years after leaving Congress, former Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wis., has kept his eye on the issues he focused on while he was a member.
Kasten’s two Senate terms provided him time to focus on foreign aid, particularly during his tenure on the Appropriations Committee. He lost his bid for re-election in 1992, but he still lives in Washington, D.C., where he operates an international banking and business consulting group, Kasten & Co.
Being in the nation’s capital is helpful, he said in a recent interview, because he’s close to all the familiar amenities and people: the Senate barbershop; former colleagues; his ex-wife and two children, who all live here.
“But more importantly for me, it’s put me where the embassies and the ambassadors and the [International Monetary Fund] and the various multilateral banking groups I’m trying to work with are located,” he said.
Kasten’s investment work takes him to Middle Eastern countries often, though the uprisings that began rocking the Arab world in 2010 have disrupted some of his partnerships.
He’s been to Egypt several times since the protests at Tahrir Square led to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but it’s much more difficult now, he said.
“It’s complicated,” he said. “The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rise of, if you will, Islamic fundamentalists, is creating significant problems, not just for business and private enterprise, but for, you know, the goal of a secular kind of government in places like Egypt.”
Compounding his foreign affairs focus, Kasten is also on the board of trustees of the American University in Cairo and the board of advisers of the American Foreign Policy Council think tank.
He has also served on the board of the Center for International Private Enterprise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s portion of the National Endowment for Democracy, he said. He’s also on the board of Talos Partners LLC, an investment firm, and the InStore Broadcasting Network, a Utah-based music and advertising provider.
Kasten, among others, was named in a fraud lawsuit concerning Talos and IBN in April. “The issues involved happened way before I went on the board,” he said. He hasn’t yet been served and he said he expects to be dropped from the case.
Kasten continues to pay attention to the world of politics, even if most of his business is in finance. After all, as long as he lives in the nation’s capital, it’s all going on in his own backyard.
“There are two people that I have huge respect for who are doing, in my mind and judgment, wonderful work in politics,” he said, referring to two former aides who are now Republican rock stars.
Scott Walker, who got his start working for Kasten’s Senate campaigns, is one of them. The Wisconsin governor became a hero to the right for his stand against labor unions.
Rep. Paul D. Ryan is the other. Kasten related the tale of Ryan’s rise through the former senator’s office, which began with a summer internship after his sophomore year of college and led him to where he is today, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Kasten hit the trail twice for Ryan after Mitt Romney took on the younger Wisconsin native. “He’s still a close friend,” he said of Ryan.