Retired Reps. find new lobbying jobs with former campaign contributor

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Former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Powerful lobbying firm Akin Gump has hired two former members of Congress who received decades of campaign contributions from their new employer. Several retired members of Congress from both parties have passed through the revolving door at the firm, going on to lobby on its behalf after years of accepting campaign funds.

The most profitable lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., Akin Gump recently announced the hiring of former members of Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) as a senior advisor and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) as a senior consultant.

According to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, Ros-Lehtinen and Smith received campaign contributions from the Dallas-based firm over their long careers in Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen received $31,500 in contributions from affiliates of Akin Gump since coming to Congress in 1989, while Smith has received $27,400 since his tenure began in 1987.  

Ros-Lehtinen and Smith will have to wait one year after leaving office before formally being able to lobby their former colleagues in the House of Representatives. Though per Congressional ethics rules, the former representatives may freely lobby the Senate.  

“One of the things that attracted me to Akin Gump was its broad and established client base across Latin America,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba, made history as the first Latina elected to Congress.

“I look forward to working with many of the firm’s clients there, including in places such as Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and throughout Central America, to help them address their public policy goals and challenges,” she said.

In office, Ros-Lehtinen was a powerful member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and served as chairwoman from 2011 to 2013. While she was chairwoman, Akin Gump issued 21 lobbying reports for foreign relations issues on behalf of clients.

During her last term in Congress, Akin Gump lobbied on behalf of agri-business company Cargill Inc. for passage of the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, a bill sponsored by Ros-Lehtinen that sanctions the Nicaraguan government which President Donald Trump signed into law in December.

The firm also lobbied on behalf of a private prison company while Rep. Smith served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. During his chairmanship between 2011 and 2012, Akin Gump received $490,000 from Corrections Corporation of America to lobby in favor of Department of Justice appropriations.

“They will be great additions to our top-tier policy practice, and I am very proud to welcome two individuals with such long and distinguished careers on Capitol Hill to the firm,” Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said in a statement.

The hiring of the two former representatives is the latest episode in a longstanding revolving door between lawmakers and the lucrative firm.

Other former members of Congress have found prized consulting positions with the firm after years of accepting campaign cash.

Former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who left office in 2015, received $28,383 in contributions from the firm throughout her career and is now employed as a senior policy consultant.

Another former senator, John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), who lost a re-election bid in 2009, was hired as a senior policy advisor upon leaving office after receiving $27,900 in contributions from Akin Gump throughout his career.

Young acolytes of the Democratic Party who once worked at the firm have also received campaign funds from their previous employer.

One young Democratic lawmaker elected during the 2018 midterm election, Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), worked as a litigator at the firm’s New York City office. In his first and only congressional race, Delgado received a whopping $237,989 from individuals who work at Akin Gump, the most of any legislator past or present.

Akin Gump’s second highest recipient in 2018 was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who received $60,258 from the firm.

Rep. Juaquín Castro (D-Texas), and his brother Julián, who recently announced a bid for the presidency, worked at the firm together before going into public service. Juaquín has received $16,950 in contributions from his former employer.

Approximately 425 other former members of Congress have lobbied for corporations and special interests after leaving government, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ revolving door tool.


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