States Set an Example of How to Slow the Federal Revolving Door

from The Hill — 08/27/19 06:00 PM EDT 

by Craig Holman

When members of Congress and other elected officials leave federal office, they usually move into highly lucrative jobs, either joining a lobbying firm or working as “strategic consultants” on behalf of business lobbying campaigns. The inside connections into the halls of power by newly retired public officials make them invaluable influence peddlers for those who can afford to hire them. A recent study by Public Citizen found that nearly 60 percent of the 2019 class of retiring members of Congress moved into these jobs. It is not supposed to be this way.

A wave of ethics laws began in the 1970s to restrain former government officials from selling their insider knowledge and access to the highest bidder in a troubling lobbying scheme known as the “revolving door.” At the federal level, the original Ethics in Government Act of 1978 banned former senior executive branch officials for one year from making “any formal or informal appearance before” their former agencies. In 1989, the scope of the revolving door restriction was expanded to include members of Congress and their senior staff. Many states across the country followed suit with their own versions of revolving door restrictions.

There are two solid reasons for reining in the revolving door of officials who turn into lobbyists. The first reason is to ensure that public servants are not influenced in the performance of public duties by the thought of later reaping special benefits from a prospective employer. The second reason is to prevent officials from cashing in on their inside connections. These are noble objectives, but the revolving door restrictions at the federal level remain largely a failed experiment. Congress should look to the states, the laboratories of democracy, to learn from their experiences. A review of state laws by Public Citizen shows that Iowa, Maryland, and North Dakota in particular offer some “best practices” that squarely address the ethics shortcomings found in Washington.

Despite efforts to slow the revolving door at the federal level, it is spinning way out of control. An academic study by Jeffrey Lazarus, Amy McKay, and Lindsey Herbel found that while just roughly 5 percent of lawmakers in Congress became lobbyists in the 1970s, almost half of retiring members become lobbyists today. Why have federal efforts to rein in the revolving door failed so miserably? The problem is threefold.

First, the cooling off period of one year for members of the House during which they are not supposed to be influencing government on behalf of paying clients after leaving public service is far too short. One year does not even cover a session of Congress and involves little turnover among officials and staff. In order to let inside connections fade, the cooling off period must be at least a full legislative cycle or even longer. A public opinion poll found that a solid majority of respondents favored a cooling off period of five years, while nearly half also favored a lifetime ban.

Second, the influence peddling activity prohibited during the cooling off period applies only to making “lobbying contacts.” Former officials are allowed immediately to join a lobbying firm and strategize for a lobbying campaign. They are simply prohibited from picking up the telephone and making the contact. Third, former officials are immediately allowed to make lobbying contacts with other branches or agencies in which they did not serve. This loophole is particularly problematic for elected officials and agency heads who develop strong ties across the government.

More than a dozen states recognize that a cooling off period of two years, enough for a full legislative cycle after which there is significant turnover among officials and staff, better breaks down the connections that makes revolvers so valuable. Florida is about to implement a cooling off period of six years. Importantly, more than a dozen states have expanded the scope of prohibited activity during the cooling off period to include strategic consulting for lobbying campaigns on top of making lobbying contacts. Finally, several states prohibit lobbying any agency or legislative body during the cooling off period, so no lobbying on behalf of paying clients.

What has been achieved at the state level shows what is possible at the federal level. Three key improvements of extending the cooling off period to two years or longer, banning lobbying activity as well as lobbying contacts, and prohibiting senior officials from lobbying any agency or branch of government would transform a system ridden with loopholes into an ethics policy quite capable of slowing the revolving door.

Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.


 Birddogging Webinar Tonight at 6:30 pm MT

National training sponsored by RepresentUs on how to get candidates on the record telling us their stance on issues.

When: Tonight, August 28 at 6:30pm MT/8:30pm ET
What: Join RepresentUs Organizing Manager James Jameson to learn about bird-dogging – the highly effective tactic of getting candidates to go on the record with their stance on important issues. For more information, click here.
Where: Join the training webinar from your computer here.

On the webinar, you’ll learn all about bird-dogging: a simple, effective tactic to get candidates to take a public stance on policies.

Getting politicians on the record is the most critical step we can take to ensure they’ll address our democracy crisis as the emergency it is – and finally take action to fix it.

For assistance with joining the seminar or more information please contact Helen Humphries at

Reformers push Dems to adopt sweeping anti-corruption platform in 2020



07/09/2019 05:04 AM EDT

As Democratic presidential candidates swear off super PACs and corporate PAC money, a campaign finance reform group is pushing them to take things a step further by using anti-corruption messages to campaign against President Donald Trump and pledging to make ethics reform an early priority in the White House.

End Citizens United, armed with polling and a track record of success in helping elect Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections, says Democrats shouldn’t hesitate to put an anti-corruption message at the forefront of the eventual general election, according to polling and presentation materials reviewed by POLITICO. The group’s leaders have briefed nine presidential campaigns, including the campaigns of polling front-runners Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and they are making plans to sit down with more.

Trump — who often boasted about his independence from big money in 2016 and branded his rival “crooked Hillary” — wielded Washington corruption as a tool on the campaign trail in his last race. But this time, ECU argues there’s space for Democrats to shape the debate, with many independents now seeing the president as similarly corrupt as other politicians in Washington.

“It’s key to winning back independents, and the kind of independents that Democrats have lost over the last couple cycles,” said Adam Bozzi, vice president for communications at ECU. “And it’s a jump ball: Voters don’t know who to trust, whether it’s Trump or a Democrat, on this issue.”

ECU operates with the goal of getting money out of politics and supporting politicians who pledge to work on campaign finance reform. The group backed more than 50 successful Democratic congressional candidates during the midterms, and it helped raise $9 million for candidates, including for 27 successful challengers who flipped seats while pledging to not take corporate PAC money.

As Democrats worked to flip the House, ECU and the “no corporate PAC” Democrats prodded incoming House leadership to make a sweeping ethics reform package its first order of business in the House. The bill, H.R.1, passed the House in March, though it has received little attention in the Republican-led Senate.

ECU is adopting a similar approach to the Democratic 2020 field. The group has not announced how it will support Democratic candidates for president. But it is now asking Democratic campaigns to commit to making ethics reform as his or her act as president, a sign it is outlining criteria and may start raising money for some candidates later in the campaign.

One candidate, Pete Buttigieg, cited reform as the first issue he’d push as president during last month’s presidential debates.

“Fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that and every other issue gets better,” Buttigieg said. Other candidates including Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Warren have outlined detailed campaign finance reform plans.

ECU is also urging candidates to make an anti-corruption message central to their campaigns and their anti-Trump messages.

“Corruption and money in politics are top issues for independent voters in 2020, and the debate between the two parties on these issues is largely unsettled,” reads the presentation that ECU has been giving to Democratic campaigns.

According to polling conducted by ECU, voters in swing states see corruption as a top concern: 83 percent of swing state voters said that “cracking down on political corruption” is a top priority, the same share of voters who said “making health care affordable” was a top priority. National security was the next highest priority on the list, followed by other issues.

The findings are based on an online poll of 1,212 likely voters in 12 battleground states conducted by Global Strategy Group. GSG purposefully oversampled voters in counties that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after twice favoring Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The poll was conducted between April 26 and May 8, 2019.

Asked how effective they think Trump has been at fulfilling his promise to “drain the swamp,” 74 percent of independent voters said they think Trump was “not effective” in his first term, while 22 percent said he was “effective” and 4 percent said they didn’t know. Sixty percent of Republican voters said Trump has been effective at draining the swamp, while 9 percent of Democratic voters agreed.

Some voters still see Trump in the same light as his initial independent, self-funding political persona. Only 25 percent of independent voters and 10 percent of Republican voters said they see Trump as “more corrupt” than other Washington politicians. About half of independent voters said they thought Trump was “about the same” as Washington politicians, the poll found.

ECU is telling Democratic campaigns to combat these perceptions of Trump by tying his positions on issues like health care and guns to powerful special interests in Washington.

“Voters don’t start with a clearly formed opinion on Trump’s independence,” reads ECU’s presentation. “What could be a strength for him of ‘not being bought’ can be undermined effectively with messaging about the money he has accepted from corporate special interests and pushing policies that hurt everyday Americans.”

On health care, for example, ECU suggests noting that Trump “has taken hundreds of thousands in donations from big health insurance companies” before talking about Trump’s positions.

But it will be difficult for Democrats to dislodge Trump on this issue, said Chris Wilson, CEO of the Republican research and polling firm WPAi — and as politicians lambaste money in politics, they are increasingly risking alienating their own supporters.

“It’s impossible for them to take the ‘drain the swamp’ mantle away from Trump,” Wilson said. “Where Democrats are pushing themselves is not an anti-corruption standpoint, it’s an anti-corporation, anti-business, anti-Wall Street— and in some cases, taking on their own baR

Saturday, July 20 Panel Discussion a Huge Success

Those who battled the summer doldrums and midday heat to attend New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics’ Saturday, July 20 General Meeting were in for a special treat. The panel discussion featuring NM Senators Peter Wirth and Nancy Rodriguez and NM House Reps Andrea Romero and Daymon Ely was nothing less than stirring and scintillating. And so was the Q & A session that followed.

Our state elected officials candidly shared with us their feeling of satisfaction over the  success of the 2019 legislative session that was such a stark contrast with the immense frustration and disappointment that they had experienced in prior years. Freshman Rep. Andrea Romero expressed her exhilaration over being a contributor to the passage of 15 bills.  The panelists talked about the journey through the legislature of Senator Wirth’s campaign finance disclosure bills that brought additional levels of transparency to the campaign process, the tremendous success of the National Popular Vote bill that Senator Rodriguez had co-sponsored, and the passage of the early voting and same-day voting bills that will make exercising the right to vote so much easier for more New Mexicans.

They  also discussed some of the bills pertaining to other democracy reform issues that did not make it to the Governor’s desk.  Sen. Ely mentioned that he was disappointed that the open primaries bill he sponsored didn’t pass but said he believed it could do so in the near future.  Looking ahead to the 2020 and 2021 sessions, our panelists expressed hope for and confidence in the ability to secure adoption of legislation restricting the “revolving door” between the legislature and lobbying and increasing the reach of public campaign finance in the state to counter the effect of private large money donations.

Our panelists clearly enjoyed the opportunity to speak and exchange ideas with us constituents, and the audience was extremely appreciative for that opportunity.  It was something that we can and must do again. I want to thank again our panelists and the people who came to attend the discussion for making it such a special event.

— John House, President

Final NMMOP Legislative Update




HB 55 – National Popular Vote Compact, sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart

Passed House 41-27 and Senate 25-16.  Signed by the Governor.

Bill enacts a Compact among the states to elect the President by the national popular vote, regardless of who wins the presidential election in New Mexico, or any other particular state. The Compact only takes effect once enough states with a collective number of 270 electoral votes (enough to elect a President) join the Compact.

SB 672 – Early and Auto Voter Registration, sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, Sen. Ivey-Soto, Rep. Linda Trujillo

Passed both housed along party lines.  Signed by the Governor.

A combination of HB 84, Auto Voter Reg at MVD; SB 50, State Agency Auto Voter Registration; HB 86, Election Day & Early Voting Registration; and SB 52– 3-Day Voter Reg.

Allows automatic voter registration at DMV and other state agencies, allows voter registration on election day. Election day provision will not take effect till 2021. Party affiliation changes are not allowed on election day in primary elections. Election day registrations require photo id.

SB 3 – Campaign Finance Reporting, sponsored by Sen. Wirth

Passed both houses, with some bipartisan support. Signed by the Governor.

SB 3 and SB 4 have been in the works for many years, both were passed last year and vetoed by Governor Martinez.

Bill amends the Campaign Reporting Act. It eliminates certain loopholes for independent expenditures, (i.e. those made other than by a candidate or campaign committee) by PACs (Political Action Committees) and others, e.g. requiring the source of last minute “hit” ads to be disclosed, and all political advertisements to identify whose paying for them. It would also simplify and bring into compliance other finance reporting rules, e.g., a person who makes an independent expenditure not otherwise required to be reported under the Campaign Reporting Act shall file a report with the secretary of state within: (1) three days of making the expenditure if the expenditure, by itself or aggregated with all independent expenditures made by the same person during the election cycle, exceeds one thousand dollars ($1,000) in a non-statewide election or three thousand dollars ($3,000) in a statewide election.

SB 4 – Campaign Public Finance Changes, sponsored by Sen. Wirth

Passed both houses, almost unanimously.  Signed by the Governor.

Bill regulates public financing of campaigns including matching funds; limits distributions of funds to candidates in uncontested races; clarifies penalty provisions.

1.The bill promotes publicly financed campaigns by creating a ‘public election fund’ for the purposes of: (1) financing the election campaigns of certified candidates for covered offices, i.e. any office of the judicial department subject to statewide elections and the office of public regulation commissioner; and (2) paying administrative and enforcement costs of the Voter Action Act.

  1. It helps to level the playing field involving privately funded candidates by financially supporting, within limits, candidates running in covered-offices elections who meet certain requirements. 

SB 668 – STATE ETHICS COMMISSION ACT, sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart

Passed both houses unanimously.  Signed by the Governor.

Bill is a substitute for HB 4 and SB 619. It creates an independent, seven-member state ethics commission with a professional executive director and staff to investigate and adjudicate ethics complaints against public officials, government contractors, lobbyists, state employees, candidates and related individuals.

  1. Commission can enforce civil compliance of Campaign Reporting Act, Voter Action Act, Lobbyist Regulation Act, Governmental Conduct Act and other ethics laws.
  2. Commission can file court actions to force civil compliance.
  3. Commission can hold public hearings on ethics complaints.
  4. Commission can impose fines and recommend disciplinary action.

SB 191 – Lobbyist Reporting Requirements, sponsored by Sen. Ivey-Soto

Passed in both houses.  Signed by the Governor.

Senate Bill 191 amends the Lobbyist Regulation Act to change reporting requirements by lobbyists by requiring cumulative reporting of expenses incurred under $100 in addition to current requirements.


HB 57- Restore Felon Voting Rights, sponsored by Rep. Chasey


Original bill simply repealing cancellation of voter’s registration after felony conviction was defeated in committee.  Substitute bill would allow a felon to register to vote upon release from prison, although he/she may not have completed parole or probation.

HJM 12 – Study All-Mail Elections, sponsored by Rep. Chandler


calls on the Secretary of State to study the feasibility of conducting all mail elections in New Mexico and reporting to the appropriate interim legislative committee by December 1, 2019. 

HJR 6 – Allow for Runoff Elections, sponsored by Rep. Pratt


Proposes to amend the state constitution to allow runoff elections in every election other than municipal elections. The resolution is to be submitted for approval by the people of the state in the next general election (November 2020) or any special election called for that purpose. 

SB 410 – School Counselor Voter Registration Agents, sponsored by Sen. Soules

Was never scheduled; DIED IN SRC

Would have required all high school counselors to be Voter Registration Agents. 

HB 93 – Primary Election Participation by Decline To State Voters, sponsored by Rep. Ely


Would allow voters who “decline to state” a party (i.e. are not registered as Rep., Dem. or Libertarian) to vote in one of the parties’ primary elections.

SB 418 – Non-Affiliated Voters in Primary Elections, sponsored by Sen. Moores

Passed in SRC, heavily amended to remove major section which required parties to pay for their primary if they decided to limit the primary to their members; DIED IN SJC.

Would open primaries to DTS voters and voters affiliated with smaller parties. If major parties decide to limit their primaries to their own members, they must pay for and administer that primary election.  NMMOP did not take a position on this bill.

HB 131 – Post-Session Lobbying Reports, Sponsored by Thompson, Steinborn

Passed unanimously on House Floor; TABLED BY SRC

Amends the Lobbyist Regulation Act to require lobbyists or lobbyists’ employers to file an expenditure report with the NM Secretary of State within one week following the conclusion of a legislative session listing the legislation for which the lobbyist or lobbyist’s employer lobbied, and whether they supported or opposed each piece of legislation.

HB 140 – Employer Estimated Lobbyist Reports, sponsored by Rep. Thompson

Bill was judged dead in water early on, by Common Cause. Never got a hearing; DIED IN HSEIC      

Amends the Lobbyist Regulation Act to require lobbyists and lobbyists’ employers to file several expenditure reports with the NM Secretary of State during the course of every year as well as report political contributions and other related expenses. 

HB 169 – Public Corruption Act, sponsored by Rep. McQueen

Passed the House 65-0. DIED IN SPAC

Bill states that a public official who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a public corruption offense shall, in addition to the penalties for the underlying offense prescribed in the Criminal Sentencing Act, forfeit service credit accrued pursuant to the Public Employees Retirement Act during all periods of service as a public official.

SB 303 – Public Corruption Act, sponsored by Sen. Moores, Rep. McQueen

Passed in SPAC; DIED IN SJC.

Identical to HB 169.

HB 462 – Sec. of State & A.G. in Voter Action Act, sponsored by Rep. Pratt et al.


Bill amends the Voter Action Act to include public campaign financing for office of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. Currently, public financing is only available for any office of the judicial department subject to statewide elections and the office of public regulation commissioner.

HB 428 – S Sec. of State in Voter Action Act, sponsored by Rep. McQueen, Rep. Ruiloba


Similar to HB 428, only considering SOS.

SB 416 – The Redistricting Act , sponsored by Sen. Moores and Sen. Tallman


The bill requires the Legislative Council Service to acquire appropriate information and data and develop programs and procedures in preparation for drawing congressional, legislative, public regulation commission and public education commission redistricting plans on the basis of each federal census and other guidelines set out in the bill. Said plan shall be introduced into the legislature for consideration. The bill further provides for a temporary redistricting commission to perform certain functions including conducting public hearings on the plan in different regions of the state.

SB 449 – Public Disclosure of Income Tax Returns by Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates, sponsored by Sen. Candelaria


Bill requires a candidate for the office of president or vice president of the United States to file with the NM secretary of state copies of the candidate’s federal income tax returns for the five most recent taxable years for which a return was filed with the IRS at least seventy days prior to a general election in order for a candidate’s name to appear on the general election ballot. Said returns would be made public on the secretary of state’s website.

HB 249, Native American Voting Task Force, sponsored by Lente

Unanimous support in HSEIC; tabled in HAFC (appropriations) with no discussion; DIED IN HAFC

Bill requires the Secretary of State to convene and support a Native American Voting Task Force.

HJR 4, Free and Fair Election Amendment Convention, sponsored by C. Trujillo


Calls on State to call for an Article V Convention, in order to create and enact amendment to the US Constitution regulating campaign finance. Was fiercely opposed by Common Cause, League of Women’s Voters, and other lobbying groups.