Ask the Experts – Don’t Get Stuck in the Revolving Door! - State and Federal Communications

December 1, 2010  •  

Ask the Experts – Don’t Get Stuck in the Revolving Door!

John CozineQ. Can I hire a federal, state, or local official who just left office to represent our interests before his or her former colleagues?

A. While the answer depends on the jurisdiction, the trend is definitely to increase the restrictions on the ability of former elected officials and government employees to seek employment as lobbyists after leaving their government positions.

Most commonly, these restrictions take the form of a waiting period during which the former official is not permitted to influence actions over which he or she exerted some power or influence.  Ostensibly, the waiting period allows this power or influence to dissipate.  It also allows time for the specific issues the former official influenced to move through the system, under the theory that the former official’s influence will be lessened on issues he or she did not directly handle.

The revolving door restrictions placed upon officials in New Jersey are fairly typical.  In that state, former members of the legislature, the governor, and heads of principal departments of the executive branch are prohibited from registering as lobbyists for one year after leaving office.  Anyone knowingly or willfully violating the revolving door restrictions is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 and can be barred from engaging in lobbying in the state for up to an additional five years.  The law assigns the Election Law Enforcement Commission the power to hold hearings regarding possible violations and assess the enumerated penalties if the violations are found to have occurred.

Most jurisdictions that have introduced ethics legislation in recent years have included revolving door provisions, as the Indiana General Assembly did this year with the passage of House Bill 1001.  Because of the increasing prevalence and importance of these laws, State and Federal Communications will be focusing on this issue and addressing it in our Executive Source on Lobbying Laws.

We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need. Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.

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