Davis Sees Wealth of Options

Posted June 6, 2008 at 6:30pm

While voters in Virginia’s 11th district will head to the polls Tuesday to determine the future of their Congressional representation, the plan for their current lawmaker, retiring Republican Rep. Tom Davis, will take longer to come together.

But so far, this much is clear: It will include making a lot of money.

Specifically, the seven-term lawmaker says he expects to be earning north of $1 million when he re-enters the private sector next year.

Davis turned down a million-dollar offer to head the National Federation of Independent Business in 2005, and he said his stock has gone up since. “I think I’m doing even better now, based on the speculation,” he said.

Despite the shift in Congressional power, several sources on and off Capitol Hill agreed with that assessment. But his 22 fellow GOPers heading for the House exits this year should take note: Davis’ prospects are likely the exception, not the rule, for retiring Republicans.

As many of his colleagues transition quietly out of a troubled House Republican Conference, Davis has claimed the spotlight by offering candid assessments of the state of the party and what needs to be done to turn it around.

“I feel a great freedom now, not having to run or anything else,” he told the Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week.

His bluntly worded memo about the challenges facing Republicans after their third straight special election loss last month was widely received by Republicans in both chambers as impressively on-point. It came as House GOPers were buzzing about Davis possibly taking over for Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) at the reins of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in what would have been a reprise role. Instead, Davis has agreed to co-head a top-to-bottom review of the special election losses, in addition to a new NRCC advisory committee.

But even as Davis burnishes his credentials as a tough-love partisan, he maintains a rare degree of goodwill across the aisle.

Several pointed to his performance at the helm of what is now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, working with Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the panel’s top Democrat.

“He tried to work with me on a bipartisan basis, and I’ve done the same now that I’m chairman,” Waxman said. “We look for opportunities to work together.”

Tom Kahn, the majority staff director of the House Budget Committee, said: “He’s shown a will and an ability to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats and to forge bipartisan solutions. He’s not a bomb-thrower — he’s thoughtful.”

K Street Republicans said those qualities would make Davis a valuable asset downtown — even after the years-long K Street Project has left the influence industry with a glut of House GOP specialists now struggling to demonstrate their relevance.

Davis acknowledged that the NFIB offer in 2005 was attractive. He said appeals from Republican leadership, who worried about being able to hold his Northern Virginia seat in a tough political environment, persuaded him to put off his retirement from the House.

Meanwhile, the public floating of his candidacy for the NFIB post, and its million-dollar-plus salary, spurred a number of competing offers, Davis said. “People called and said, ‘We can do that.’”

After a flirtation with a bid to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), Davis announced his retirement in January. He has since hired a headhunter to field offers, and he said he will start to review them this summer.

Though Davis’ career on Capitol Hill dates to his teen years as a Senate page, he maintains that his next move will not necessarily be into a lobbying job that returns him there.

Instead, he said, he may opt for an entrepreneurial route.

“I can do well in a lot of things,” he said, pointing to his pre-Congressional stint as general counsel to PRC, a billion-dollar computer services firm.

His decision, he said, will not be based exclusively on money. “Lifestyle, having weekends free — all that enters into it,” he said.

If he meets his expectations, Davis could in short order increase his personal wealth several fold. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, Davis reported a net worth of $996,042 to $2,615,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That placed him 139th among House Members.

“His earning power has only increased since 2005, when he last gave serious thought to leaving Congress,” said Dan Mattoon, a Republican lobbyist who served as deputy NRCC chairman under Davis in the 2000 cycle. He said Davis will likely do something “multifaceted, since Tom is a pretty energetic guy, and I don’t see him being fulfilled professionally by just one thing.”

Mattoon and others pointed to the unique makeup of Davis’ district as another asset for him in his post-Congressional career. Made up of high-density Washington, D.C., suburbs, the district includes a cluster of tech outfits and federal contractors — businesses that have kept Davis primed on new economy concerns and the ins and outs of interacting with the federal government.

“His political knowledge, the proximity of his district to D.C. and the business interests in his district should appeal to corporate or association interests,” GOP lobbyist Drew Maloney said.

Davis said he will likely stay active politically after he leaves, though he’s not yet sure in what capacity. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.