Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Street Talk: K Street Hiring Chill Leaves Members Cold

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Berman’s instincts told him Covington is a good fit, where he can continue to work on his specialties, from a new perspective.

It’s not as if they’re setting up outside of Union Station with “Will Work for Food” signs, but the cadre of ex-members from the 112th Congress is finding a lukewarm hiring market downtown.

“It has been more challenging this year than in any year I can remember, and I’ve been doing this for 18 years,” said Ivan Adler, a lobbyist headhunter with The McCormick Group.

K Street shops, many in revenue decline for the past couple of years, can no longer afford the luxury of a high-priced former member. Senators usually don’t entertain offers worth less than $1 million, and House members’ threshold is typically about $700,000. And it’s an investment with no guaranteed payoff. Ever.

Still, it’s a bet that some firms are willing to wager, especially when it comes to top-tier, big-name talent off the Hill. And in recent weeks, the revolving door has deposited former Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts plus former Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson into plum positions. Ditto for former Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former California Democratic Rep. Howard L. Berman and a select few of their colleagues who have set up shop in law firms or other outfits.

But that’s a small percentage of the more than 100 lawmakers who found themselves, voluntarily or not, out of work in early January. Many of them seem missing in action — think former Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who hasn’t tweeted since Nov. 6.

Among the hot prospects in line for corporate jobs, former independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut is still considering his options, sources said. Lieberman last week joined Kyl in an American Enterprise Institute project, but that is not likely to be his only gig.

Julian Ha, another K Street headhunter with the search firm Heidrick & Struggles, was hired by Visa Inc. to find the company a new top lobbyist in Washington. Ha doesn’t represent job-seekers, but he said he’s heard from a lot of former members — no, he won’t name names — who have expressed an interest in the job.

“I’ll be honest,” Ha said, keeping expectations in check, “the type of person [Visa] wants for that job is somebody who’s run a D.C. office.”

He said both Republican and Democratic members just off the Hill have found a tough job environment. Law and lobbying firms, he said, “want somebody who’s going to cover their costs and then some.”

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