Holding the Government Accountable

Constituents & Taxpayers Don't Wynn

In February, incumbent Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) lost in the primary election. On May 31, 2008, Wynn quit his term in Congress, thereby turning his back on his constituents, his supporters, Congress, and all taxpayers. One explanation is that Wynn wanted to jump start the clock on the 1-year lobbying ban. All hail the Senate, which has a 2-year cooling-off period before a former Senator can lobby on the Hill.

In theory, the cooling-off periods are essential to ensuring that the government isn't being raided by special or powerful financial interests. In reality, however, lobbying restrictions and numerous conflict of interest and ethics laws are little more than a funny cartoon located above the office water cooler.

Prior to jumping ship, Wynn slapped on a life preserver and tiptoed past his crew. He is rumored to be swimming to the closest island--Dickstein Shapiro LLP. That firm might sound familiar because it's the same beach where former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) recently washed up. Dickstein has a very healthy lobbying practice, and represents companies and issues that might have been before Wynn during his 15 years in Congress and while he was a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

CNN's Lou Dobbs recently featured a story on the revolving door, too. That episode also looked at the issues surrounding the transition between administrations. The revolving door is one issue that everyone should have on their radar--some ill-intentioned public servants will be moving in and out of the government, and we must ensure that they don't promote personal or private interests above those of the general public.