Cruz, AOC Team Up to Stop Ex-Lawmakers From Lobbying

WASHINGTON (CN) – Compromise is often seen as a four-letter word on Capitol Hill but in a rare show of bipartisanship, Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said they will join forces to draft legislation banning former members of Congress from becoming corporate lobbyists.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

On Thursday night, Ocasio-Cortez, a congresswoman from New York, posted a tweet analyzing research from watchdog group Public Citizen which found that roughly 60% of all lawmakers from the last congressional session who took jobs outside of politics ended up working as lobbyists influencing federal policy.

“If you’re a member of Congress and leave, you shouldn’t be allowed to turn right around and leverage your service for a lobbyist check,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted before also suggesting that if a lifetime ban was too extreme, a lengthy wait period might suffice.

The tweet prompted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, to respond: “Here’s something I don’t say often, on this point, I agree with AOC. Indeed, I have long called for a lifetime ban on former members of congress becoming lobbyists. The Swamp would hate it but perhaps a chance for some bipartisan cooperation?”

Sen. Ted Cruz addresses his supporters during a rally on Oct. 13, 2018, in El Paso, Texas. (Brian Kanof/The El Paso Times via AP)

With a few conditions from Ocasio-Cortez – the bill must be “clean” and free of “snuck-in clauses” and “poison pills” – the New York Democrat said she would be game to co-lead a bill codifying the lobbying ban.

The Texas Republican promptly took the offer, tweeting in response, “You’re on.”

The unlikely partnership garnered interest across both aisles with considerable speed. Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said he was “in” and not long after, Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas also agreed to team up with his Democratic colleague.

When reached for comment Friday, Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent said the legislators will meet to discuss next steps when Congress returns from recess next week.

According to Public Citizen’s report, one of the more notable lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from the last congressional session is Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who once pushed for copper and gold mine construction in remote Alaska and now works for the firm Akin Gump, lobbying for mining operations in the same region.  

Even Ocasio-Cortez’s own primary opponent, former Democratic Representative Joe Crowley, is now working as a lobbyist. After losing to her in the June 2018 primary, Crowley quickly took up work with Squire Patton Boggs, a firm that lobbies for, among others, fossil fuel giant Royal Dutch Shell.

The revolving door between K Street, a virtual lobbyist row in a city chock full of them, and Capitol Hill has been a point of contention for years. In 2005, Public Citizen conducted a similar report on congressional lobbyist carousels and found that at the time, 43% of U.S. representatives and senators who left office between 1998 and 2004 became registered lobbyists.

Proponents of a long-term or lifetime ban on the practice argue it would close loopholes abused by lawmakers like former Senator Tom Daschle, who worked for several major D.C. lobbying firms but didn’t register or disclose that he was a lobbyist for over a decade.

At present, senators are barred from becoming lobbyists for at least two years after leaving office and members of the House only need to wait a year.

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