In February of this year, news broke that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew received an exit package worth over $1 million from Citigroup shortly before joining the Obama administration in 2009. In fact Lew’s contract with Citigroup made explicitly clear that the banker’s eligibility for a special bonus was contingent on his securing a ‘full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.’”
Welcome, my friends, to the new vogue in Washington: the reverse revolving door. The Nation reported on this too-corrupt-to-be-real-but-it-still-somehow-is phenomenon that is running rampant in Congress. Here’s how it works: Joe the Executive works at a big corporation but applies for a job in government. Joe’s employer says, “Congrats Joe! It was so great working with you that we’re going to give you a boatload of money even though you’re quitting. This has nothing to do with the fact that you’re now going to be in a huge position of power where you could score us millions in government contracts!” (I imagine that there then is an elaborate ritual of winking, giggling, and smoking celebratory cigars, but that’s just me.)
Seriously though, this is a very real thing. Let me take you back to the beginning of 2013: Obama calls for a cut in funding for the production of Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. Why? Because the Air Force was actively complaining that they were “not only too expensive, but unnecessary.” Seems simple, right? It wasn’t. Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees went into an uproar and demanded funding for the Global Hawk.
Allow me to explain: Bruce Hock was a prominent staff member in the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time of the controversy. Hock’s previous job: executive and lobbyist for defense contractor Northrop Grumman. Oh, did I mention that Northrop Grumman is the corporation that produces the Global Hawk and stood to lose millions if funding dropped? When he made the jump into government:
[Hock] received up to $450,000 in bonus and incentive pay from Northrop Grumman… according to disclosures filed with the Ethics Committee.”
Hock isn’t alone. On the other side of Capitol Hill, a senior staffer for the House Armed Services Committee who worked for Northrop Grumman as a lobbyist, Thomas Mackenzie, received a similar bonus and severance pay worth $498,334 before assuming his position in 2011.”
Let’s review: two of the most vocal proponents of paying a Northrop Grumman millions to produce something that the Air Force itself said it didn’t even want were awarded a combined $950,000 in “bonuses” from Northrop. Hmm, they’re calling these things bonuses but I can think of another ‘B word’ that would fit here…
Even though it may seem unlikely, apparently there actually are rules that attempt to address the reverse revolving door:
ethics rules authorize congressional staffers to receive bonuses from prior employers as long as the money is being paid for work previously performed. Such bonuses and other financial awards are ostensibly allowed so long as they have ‘not been enhanced because of the individual’s congressional employment.’
It’s pretty clear that the ethics committee needs to step its game up and we need to seriously rethink the rules governing corporate-government mingling. As disgusting as it is, the case of Northrop Grumman is only the tip of the iceberg (the Nation explores numerous other cases.) In my eyes, this is nothing less than clear cut corruption. As our nation sits in a massive deficit, corporations are ensuring that they still get their fat government contracts, whether their services will help the American people or not. It’s pretty terrible.
Anyways, there’s your daily dose of corruption for you. Until next time…