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Updated 11:15 a.m. | Five years after retiring from public office, former Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., is enjoying life as a lobbyist in the nation’s capital.
Walsh worked in Congress for 20 years, representing the Syracuse area. He chose to retire in 2008 as Democrats targeted his district in what would be a good year for them.
However, the Western New York native did not stay away from Washington for long, returning to D.C. as a lobbyist for the law firm K&L Gates in 2010.
In Congress, Walsh built his reputation with his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and his position as a cardinal on the House Appropriations Committee.
For the majority of his time in office, the New York Republican served as a deputy Republican whip, demonstrating his closeness to leadership. However, when Walsh left Congress, he was critical of the GOP’s lack of diversity and he still believes the party needs to work on that issue.
“In order to be a national party, we need to be broader-based. We need to be more inclusive in terms of ethnic minorities, especially Latinos,” Walsh told CQ Roll Call.
Walsh also said the GOP must address an immigration policy rewrite, but not just to attract Hispanic voters.
“I know the Irish are very interested in immigration reform in the U.S. There are [thousands] of undocumented Irish in the United States,” he said.
Walsh currently serves on the board of directors for the Washington Ireland Program, allowing him to pursue his interest in Ireland, which he developed on Capitol Hill.
The former congressman hopes to one day write a book about the Northern Ireland peace process and would also like to teach modern Irish history and politics after he retires from K Street.
However, Walsh’s current job allows him to delve into other issues that he is passionate about. As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, Walsh enjoys working with organizations that promote clean water supplies and global development.
He also relishes the opportunity to conduct extensive research on those issue areas, a luxury not afforded to him in Congress.
“When you’re in Congress you tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. You have to have an opinion about every bill,” said Walsh. “In a law firm, people tend to be an inch wide and a mile deep. ... It has enabled me to dig down into issues that I am working on.”
When Walsh is not lobbying his former colleagues, he can be found outdoors. The avid fly fisherman enjoys scouring for trout on the Potomac, as well as exploring the District.
Walsh has no plans to return to public office. Having also served on Syracuse’s Common Council for eight years before his congressional career — he was in public life for 31 years and ran 16 campaigns — the former congressman said he has had enough of politics.
“You really give up a lot to be in public life. It’s worth it because you really can do a lot of good,” said Walsh. “But the people who do it — they’re pretty great people ... and I admire them. I still like working with them. But, you know, to be out of it, it’s a lot less stress.”
CQ Roll Call’s Life After Congress is designed to answer the question “Where are they now?” If that’s something you’ve asked yourself about a former member or members, drop us a line. We’ll do our best to track them down.