And his rejection by voters came after Vitter has served two terms or 12 years in the Senate. Rather than seek a third Senate term, which political analysts believed was a shoo-in, he decided to run for governor instead.
Hindsight is 20/20, they say, and if Vitter could go back in time, he would likely run for re-election to the Senate where he was gaining seniority and power.
National news outlet POLITICO revealed recently that Vitter is in negotiations with lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. for employment after he finishes his Senate term at the end of this year.
Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of Elm Grove in Bossier Parish, a Democrat running for Vitter’s seat, was quick to react to the news.
“Too many politicians give away their vote to special interests in exchange for jobs,” Campbell said. He added, “I’m going to Washington to end the Congress to K-Street pipeline.”
K Street in Washington, D.C. is the prestigious address of the most high-powered lobbying firms, where they rent plush offices.
Campbell also noted, “If it’s legal for a member of the U.S. Senate to be cutting a deal with a lobbying firm before he leaves office, it shouldn’t be. This is clearly an ethics problem.”
Campbell, who many pundits consider an outspoken populist, never minces words as he serves his third term as Public Service Commissioner. He also served 25 years in the Louisiana Senate.
“My opponents’ blind support for David Vitter is dangerous. The people of our state want to end the broken Vitter legacy, and I’m going to help them do it.,” Campbell stated.
The U.S. Senate Ethics Code states:
“Senators shall not negotiate or make any arrangement for jobs involving lobbying activities until after their successor has been elected. For any other future private employment, Senators must file a signed public statement with the Secretary of the Senate within 3 business days of beginning the negotiations or arrangements for private employment or compensation.
“Senators who file the Disclosure by Member of Employment Negotiations and Recusal form must also recuse themselves whenever there is a conflict of interest (or appearance of one) with respect to the private entity identified on the form and notify the Ethics Committee in writing of such recusals.”
Lobbying ban afoot in the Senate
Foster Campbell may be on the cutting edge in his thinking about banning members of Congress from lobbying jobs.
There is already legislation in the U.S. Senate to do just that. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, are co-sponsors of such legislation called the “Close the Revolving Door Act.”
Getting it passed is a much different story, akin to members of Congress voting term limits on themselves or putting limitations and restrictions on campaign finance contributions.
A study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics revealed that a rapidly rising number of ex-members are cashing in by becoming well-paid lobbyists. In 2014 for example, 45% of those who left Congress did so and stayed in Washington, D.C. rather than return to their home state.
Currently, members of Congress – both House and Senate – make $174,000 a year. But with their insider connections, they can make 10 times that much as a lobbyist.
The problem, of course, is those members who are thinking about starting a lucrative lobbying career tend to vote not in the public interest, but for what might benefit them in the future.
The “Close the Revolving Door Act” has other features applauded by good-government advocates. It increases the penalties for breaking the Lobbying Disclosure Act and it extends the ban on Congressional staff becoming lobbyists from only one year to six.
Under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, members of the U.S. House are prohibited from “lobbying” or making advocacy communications on behalf of any other person to current members of either the House or Senate or to any legislative branch employee for one year after leaving Congress.
Senators are prohibited from similar post-employment advocacy for a period of two years after leaving office.