Ethics of Job Searches

Posted July 15, 2003 at 5:58pm

It was hardly a surprise last month when Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) voted for a bill on the House floor that was strongly backed by the wireless phone industry.

After all, Pickering — the founder of the House Wireless Caucus — has long been considered a champion of the industry.

But few knew that at the very same time Pickering was interviewing with some of the industry’s top executives for a million-dollar job as head of the wireless industry’s trade association, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

After consulting with the House ethics manual, Pickering concluded that he was free to vote for the bill because the legislation benefited the industry as a whole — not any single company, according to spokesman Brian Perry.

Still, Pickering’s discussions with the industry association offers insights into the ethical dilemma that several

Members of Congress may now face as they are courted by various K Street groups for some of the most lucrative lobbying jobs in town.

In the past few months, a half-dozen Members have been mentioned as possible candidates for top lobbying positions with trade associations representing the movie, recording, cable, automobile and wireless phone industries.

Although there are no rules prohibiting Members to weigh job offers in the private sector, House and Senate ethics guideless caution them to be “particularly careful” when considering jobs in industries that could be affected by business before Congress.

“A Member must consider whether it is necessary to abstain from voting or taking other official actions on matters that would affect an outside party with whom the Member is negotiating for or from whom the Member has accepted employment,” according to rules published by the House ethics committee.

The fear, according to remarks once made by then-Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.), is that if a Member of Congress wants a job in the private sector, “he begins to wonder how he can do so if he offends the companies that are involved.”

In other words, a Member may be inclined to advocate for positions favored by the company for which he would like to work.

“As the official broods over these facts,” Douglas continued, “the virtue begins to ooze out of him.”

Members of Congress deal with the potential for a conflict in different ways. Some hire attorneys or third-party headhunters to negotiate job offers in order to create distance from a potential employer.

Former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.) hired an attorney “to make sure that I stayed inside of all the rules,” before accepting a job with a lobbying firm now known as the Wexler Walker Group.

Walker added: “It’s only wise for people making the transition to make absolutely sure that you don’t have a conflict.”

Three’s Company. Three of K Street’s newest Republican lobbyists have moved in together.

Joe Allbaugh, Andrew Lundquist and Lee Johnson — who each have their own lobbying shops — have decided to rent office space together.

Allbaugh’s wife, Diana, also runs her firm, MDA Capitol Group, out of the space.

The four don’t share any clients for now, but they think that over time the arrangement will lead to opportunities to work together.

“Because we each have different networks, in time we will collaborate on things,” said Johnson, a former Senate Republican leadership aide who founded the Lee Johnson Group.

Johnson, who briefly worked at Winston & Strawn, also just signed up his first two clients: The Long-Term Care Pharmacy Alliance and victim-notification firm Appriss.

Meanwhile, The Lundquist Group has made its first big hire, nabbing Howard Useem, who spent more than two decades on energy issues on Capitol Hill.

Useem and Lundquist worked together when Lundquist was staff director of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee under then-Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Allbaugh, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has impeccable ties to the Bush administration. He’s one of President Bush’s closest personal friends. His work focuses on telecommunications, transportation and homeland security.

Reaching Across the Mississippi. Former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist (R) will coordinate efforts with two Democrats from across the Mississippi River to form a new D.C. lobbying operation.

Sundquist, former Sen. David Pryor (Ark.) and former Rep. Beryl Anthony (Ark.) have decided to form the firm Sundquist Pryor.

They will team up with Reagan Deputy Treasury Comptroller Jim Boland, former U.S. Airways lobbyist Ron Reeves and former FedEx Corp. lobbyist Doyle Cloud.

Bush Business Liaison Takes Electronics Industry Position. Adam Goldman, who served as the West Wing’s liaison to the business community, is leaving the Bush administration to take a top post at the Electronic Industries Alliance.

Goldman, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and a veteran of the 2000 Bush campaign, will be the senior director of government and corporate affairs at the EIA.

Intel-ligent Hire. Jennifer Greeson has joined the Washington office of Intel to manage public affairs for the high-tech company.

Greeson is a former aide to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Reverse Rainmaker. Holly Smithson, the director of government affairs at the Solid Waste Association of North America, is moving out of the private sector and into the executive branch.

Smithson, who had been with the Solid Waste Association since 1999, will take a position in the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of Congressional and intergovernmental relations.

The native North Carolinian is a veteran of many Tar Heel State Congressional and gubernatorial races, including then-Sen. Jesse Helms’ (R) successful 1996 re-election bid.