Revolving Door Keeps Spinning with Armed Services Committee Staff

Congressional ex-staffers land lucrative lobbying jobs

Revolving Door Keeps Spinning with Armed Services Committee Staff Revolving Door Keeps Spinning with Armed Services Committee Staff
In early May 2017, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) announced his staff director Bob Simmons was leaving the committee to work... Revolving Door Keeps Spinning with Armed Services Committee Staff

In early May 2017, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) announced his staff director Bob Simmons was leaving the committee to work for the private sector. Subsequent reporting by Politico and The Hill confirmed he was going to work for Boeing, which received contracts worth $14.6 billion in fiscal year 2015 from the Defense Department and $16.6 billion from the federal government overall — making it the second-largest recipient of all federal contract dollars.

He’s not alone. Earlier this year the Professional Services Council, or PSC, a trade association representing service contractors and $147.9 billion in Pentagon spending last year, announced it had hired the Senate Armed Services Committee’s point person on acquisition reform, Bill Greenwalt, as a senior adviser. PSC said Greenwalt’s “vast experience in the legislative and executive branches … will provide tremendous value to our member companies.”

The Armed Services Committees authorize about $600 billion in spending each year, are responsible for overseeing $1.4 trillion in major weapon systems, and are the primary architects of regulations governing the Pentagon’s contracts. While these two examples are of Republicans, a staffer from these committees going on to work for entities with substantial business before the committee they worked for is not unusual or particular to any political party.

Former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer for then-Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) John Barnes became a Raytheon lobbyist, as did Senate Armed Services Committee staffer and aide to then-Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) William Lynn. Lynn later became Deputy Secretary of Defense, receiving the first ethics waiver of the Obama administration.

A 2010 London School of Economics study found there were powerful incentives to become a lobbyist while one’s boss is still in office, finding “lobbyists with past working experience in the office of a U.S. Senator suffer a 24 percent drop in revenue — around $177,000 — when their ex-employers leaves office.” And a Politico investigation published last year found lobbying reforms instituted in 2007 have only made the influence industry more difficult to track.

All of this shows a disturbing pattern of “swamp”-like behavior that causes many taxpayers to question the integrity of spending decisions made in Washington.

Flickr photo

Loopholes in ethics rules

According to Legistorm, last year Simmons was paid $172,500 and Greenwalt was paid around $170,000, qualifying both of them as “very senior staff” under House Ethics Rules and Senate Ethics Rules. That designation triggers special post-employment restrictions which do not apply to very senior staff who earn less than $130,500 or received the “senior staff rate” for fewer than 60 days.

Under those rules, there is a one year “cooling off” period when they cannot lobby any members who currently or in the previous 12 months served on the committee they worked on. Those rules also bar them from knowingly representing or advising foreign governments and foreign political parties for one year, and from lobbying staff of members in lieu of lobbying the members directly during that cooling off period.

Violating these rules could constitute a felony under 18 U.S.C. 207, but according to data published by the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, these violations are rarely prosecuted. Nothing in these rules, however, precludes former staffers from advising their new employer about their lobbying strategy — a loophole seemingly exploited by former Representative and recently confirmed Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

There also isn’t any specific prohibition against using proprietary or sensitive information they may have learned in their roles in the committee as long as it does not take the form of a “statement” based on special knowledge gained through that role.

That said, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act made clear Congress is not exempt from insider trading laws. Former staffers may also contact members, officers and employees of the other legislative chamber — so the Senate is fair game for Simmons and the House for Greenwalt — and they may lobby their colleagues on the other Armed Services Committee or Defense Department they were previously charged with overseeing as long as they are not representing a foreign government or a foreign political party.

When former congressional staffers must recuse themselves can be a little hazy. According to the House Ethics Committee’s December 2016 guidance memo, very senior staff must notify the House Ethics Committee within three business days of beginning negotiations or agreement for future employment with a private entity, and must recuse themselves from “any matter in which there is a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict.”

But “negotiation” is open to interpretation, and it has been defined by the courts as “a communication between two parties with a view to reaching an agreement.” In layman’s terms, this means the communication can be fairly far along the lines of haggling over a job before a staffer is obligated to inform the House Ethics Committee.

The memo contradicts, however, an August 2016 final rule published by the Office of Government Ethics, in which OGE states that submitting a resume to a specific employer would necessitate notification and recusal. The House Ethics Committee says “merely sending a copy of one’s resume is not considered ‘negotiating’ for future employment.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee did not respond to questions from the Project on Government Oversight about its knowledge of Greenwalt’s job negotiations and its plan for handling potential conflicts of interest.

House Armed Services Committee Republican staff told POGO they believed Simmons had informed them in an appropriately timely manner about the status of negotiations with Boeing, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry removed Simmons from his staff director duties, including all legislative decisions for the National Defense Authorization Act, once he was notified.

The committee said removing him from those duties should curtail conflicts and reduce the possibility of retaliation against other staffers who raise concerns.

Both Republican and Democratic committee staff were asked to review their work portfolios and report potential conflicts of interest to the committee’s general counsel. Staff were also told they had an ongoing obligation to enforce that recusal by not bringing those issues before Simmons. Thornberry offered his personal email to staff for any who did not feel comfortable reporting their concerns to the General Counsel.

When asked specifically by POGO about whether Simmons’s new position posed conflicts for the Chairman’s upcoming acquisition reform legislation, the committee’s general counsel  said he didn’t see any direct financial conflicts yet, but that it would be judged by whether the language in the bill departed from positions taken in previous legislation or reflected the policy positions of Boeing or industry associations the company belonged to.

That means, for example, any legislation to weaken the Pentagon’s testing office would likely not give rise to a conflict because that was the committee’s previous position.

House staff also told POGO that their transparent legislative process — unlike the Senate’s largely closed markup — should act as an additional check against conflicts of interest.

Both Simmons’s and Greenwalt’s decisions to go work for the industries they were once charged with overseeing are reprehensible, and cast a pall across their work by raising the question of whether they were doing what was best for the military and taxpayers or were instead acting in the best interest of the industries they hoped would employ them after they left Congress.

Yet despite the weak requirements of the law, Thornberry seems to be making genuine efforts to minimize the reputational damage caused by Simmons’s decision to go through the revolving door.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a Boeing facility in 2015

Military-industrial-congressional complex

Simmons and Greenwalt are the latest example of Armed Services Committee staff who go through the revolving door. In 2012 POGO reported that a former Lockheed Martin lobbyist became staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which we described as “terribly disappointing.”

The previous year, the House’s committee hired a former Northrop Grumman lobbyist, who received a large severance and bonus payment and owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in the company’s stock. Simmons’s previous boss, former committee chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, opened a consulting and lobbying firm shortly after leaving Congress.

Lockheed Martin quickly signed him up as a lobbyist for the committee’s annual authorization bill, as did General Dynamics, L-3 Communications and other major defense contractors. McKeon also added the government of Saudi Arabia as a client almost as soon as the rules would allow.

Last year, the defense aerospace industry spent $73 million on lobbying the federal government. While it is unclear if Simmons’s or Greenwalt’s roles will include lobbying or require them to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, information gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics and Legistorm shows they would be among many other former congressional staffers who have become lobbyists for Boeing and the Professional Services Council.

Records for 2016 show three former Democratic members of Congress, but no former Republican members, and 42 former congressional staffers have registered to lobby for Boeing. Of the partisan staff who became lobbyists, 14 were Democrats and 23 were Republicans. For the Professional Services Council, five were Democrats and eight were Republicans.

The following is the full list of congressional members and staff turned lobbyists. The sheer quantity shows why many think the budget and appropriations processes are mired in self-dealing rather than what is best for our military and taxpayers.

Boeing

  • Former representative Jim Moran (D-VA) served in the House from 1991 to 2015 and was a member of the House Appropriations committee. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2016.
  • Former representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) served in the House from 1977 to 2013 and was the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • Former representative Jerry F. Costello (D-IL) served in the House from 1987 to 2013 and was the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Jeff Bjornstad was chief of staff to Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) from 2000 to 2007 and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) from 2007 to 2011. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2011.
  • John T. Blazey, according to his official biography, spent nearly 20 years on the House Appropriations Committee and was staff director/clerk of the House Commerce, Justice and Related Agencies subcommittee for House Appropriations. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2011.
  • Heath D. Bumgardner was a Legislative Assistant for former House Appropriations member Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2009.
  • Tammy Cameron was the majority staff director for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and the Subcommittee on Military Construction.  She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Michael J. Catanzaro was the Deputy Staff Director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from 2009 to 2011 and assistant for policy to then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) from 2011 to 2012. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • Anne Marie Chotvacs became senior director of international operations and policy for Boeing on Nov. 4, 2016. According to an official press statement, “[s]he spent the past eight years as clerk and staff director for the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee” for Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX).
  • Jay N. Cranford III was a policy advisor to then-House Minority Leader of the House John Boehner (R-OH) from 2007 to 2011. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Amy Jensen Cunniffe was a special assistant for legislative affairs at the White House from 2003 to 2005 and a Legislative Aide to Representative and later House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) from 1995 to 2002. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • Stacey A. Dion was policy adviser and counsel to then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) from 2007 to 2008. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2008.
  • Jonathan Etherton was a professional staff member for the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1985 to 1999. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2006.
  • Mike Ference was policy advisor and director of outreach for then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) from 2009 to 2013, and senior policy advisor to then-House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) from 2006 to 2009. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Sam K. Geduldig, according to his official biography, “served in multiple roles for John Boehner [(R-OH)]before the Ohio Republican became speaker. Geduldig also worked as a top aide on the House Financial Services Committee to then-Chairman Mike Oxley [(R-OH)]. And he spent four years as the top liaison between House GOP leaders and the business community as a senior advisor to then-House Majority Whip Roy Blunt [(R-MO)].” He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Valerie H. Jewett worked for Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) from 1999 to 2007, becoming his senior legislative assistant. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2014.
  • John Keast was Chief of Staff to then-representative Roger Wicker (R-MS) from 1995 to 2006. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Timothy Keating, according to his official biography, was special assistant to Pres. Bill Clinton and staff director for White House Legislative Affairs. He was also assistant floor manager for the Democratic leadership from 1986 to 1992. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2008.
  • Katharine Lister worked from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) from 2005 to 2012, serving as her chief of staff from 2009 to 2012, and served as the deputy chief of staff at the Department of Commerce from 2012 to 2013. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Stephanie Martz was senior counsel and special assistant to the president from 2014 to 2015, and chief judiciary committee counsel to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) from 2009 to 2014. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • Matthew McCardle was a professional staff member for the House Appropriations Committee from 2010 to 2012 and the Senate Appropriations Committee from 2004 to 2010. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Jeffrey McMillen was staff director for the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures under Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) from 2001 to 2004. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2009.
  • Heather Meade was assistant chief of staff to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) from 2000 to 2002. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2009.
  • Michael Messmer was a policy advisor to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and executive assistant to then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO). He’s been lobbying for Boeing since 2008.
  • Michelle Mrdeza was a professional staff member on the House Appropriations Committee from 1992 to 2006, serving as majority staff director for the Homeland Security Subcommittee from 2004 to 2006 and staff director for the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Subcommittee from 1995 to 2003. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2010.
  • John P. Mulligan worked for House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) as his chief of staff from 2000 to 2007. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Mark William Murray was a minority staff assistant on the House Appropriations Committee from 1985 to 2005. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2010.
  • Michael Nielsen was a senior policy advisor to Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee from 2007 to 2010, Republican staff director for the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions from 2002 to 2006 and professional staff member to the Joint Economic Committee from 2001 to 2002. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Janice M. O’Connell, according to her official biography, “a professional staff member of both the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees. She also served as senior foreign policy and national security advisor to Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), former chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.” She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2016.
  • Thomas J. O’Donnell was chief of staff for then-House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) from 1989 to 1997. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2008.
  • James Richards was an appropriations associate for Reps. Joe Skeen (R-NM) and Henry Bonilla (R-TX) and chief of staff for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM). He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2016.
  • Robert A. Russell was chief of staff to then-Senator Mark Pryor (D-AK) from 2003 to 2010. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • John Scofield was communications director for the then-Chairs Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Bill Young (R-FL) for the House Appropriations Committee from 2001 to 2006. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2008.
  • John Shank was the staff director for the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee from 2005 to 2008 under then-representatives Bill Young (R-FL) and Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and also served as the Staff Assistant for Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Agencies. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2009.
  • Thomas Hunt Shipman was a legislative assistant to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) from 1992 to 2001, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the Department of Agriculture from 2001 to 2003, and majority staff director of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee form 2003 to 2004. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Jeffrey Shockey was the staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and the minority deputy and later staff director for House Appropriations from 2005 to 2011 under then-Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA). He became Boeing’s vice president of federal legislative affairs in 2016.
  • Arshi Siddiqui was a senior policy advisor and counsel to House Democratic Leader and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from 2003 to 2010. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2016.
  • Kyle Simmons was chief of staff to then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from 2002 to 2010. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • Amy B. Smith was majority policy director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2007 to 2013 for then-Representative John Mica (R-FL) and served as director of floor operations for then-House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) from 2003 to 2007. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Thomas J. Stapleton was a legislative assistant for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) from 2005 to 2006. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2006.
  • Howard G. Sutton served as professional staff for the Senate Appropriations Committee for Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) from 2006 to 2013. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2013.
  • Susan Sweat worked for then-Representative and later Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) from 2001 to 2011, becoming legislative director in 2006. She has been lobbying for Boeing since 2012.
  • Rich Thomas was worked for Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) from 2000 to 2008 becoming his legislative director in 2005.  He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2010.
  • Ryan Thompson worked for former Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) from 2002 to 2011, becoming chief of staff in 2007. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2015.
  • C. Stewart Verdery Jr. was Senate Judiciary Committee General Counsel to Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) from 1998 to 2002 and assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. He has been lobbying for Boeing since 2010.

Professional Services Council

  • Jim Dyer was a Republican clerk and staff director for the House Appropriations Committee from 1995 to 2005. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2012.
  • Kimberly Ellis was legislative director for Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) from 2006 to 2011. She has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2013.
  • T.A. Hawks was Republican staff director for Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee from 2013 to 2015 and, before that, went from an aide to chief of staff for Sen. Cochran (R-MS) from 2000 to 2013. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2015.
  • Dan Henke served in various roles for Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-KS) personal office from 2012 to 2015. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2016.
  • Josh Holly served in multiple roles for the then-Chairmen Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) on the House Armed Services Committee from 2005 to 2011, including communications director and professional staff member. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2012.
  • Ashley Hoy was director of coalitions for the Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at the Senate Republican Conference Committee from 2009 to 2010 and was in the same position for then-House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) from 2007 to 2008. She has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2011.
  • Katharine Lister worked from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) from 2005 to 2012, serving as her chief of staff from 2009 to 2012, and served as the deputy chief of staff at the Department of Commerce from 2012 to 2013. She has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2013.
  • David Marin was Republican staff director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2006 to 2008 and deputy staff director and director of communications from 2003 to 2006. He was also legislative director and press secretary for then-Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) from 2001 to 2003. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2009.
  • Stephanie Martz was senior counsel and special assistant to the president from 2014 to 2015, and chief judiciary committee counsel to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) from 2009 to 2014. She has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2015.
  • Kate Mills was legislative counsel for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) from 2007 to 2009. She has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2015.
  • John P. Mulligan worked for House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) as his legislative director and later his chief of staff from 2000 to 2007. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2013.
  • Rich Thomas was legislative director for Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) from 2000 to 2008. He has been lobbying for the Professional Services Council since 2010.
  • C. Stewart Verdery, Jr. was Senate Judiciary Committee general counsel to Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) from 1998 to 2002 and assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. He has been lobbying for Professional Services Council since 2010.

This story originally appeared at the Project on Government Oversight. Scott Amey and Lydia Dennett from POGO, and Daniel Schuman from Demand Progress also contributed to this reporting.

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