State ranks high in ex-lawmaker lobbyists

Monday, October 16, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lawmakers gave grand, protracted goodbyes last month to their colleagues who, for one reason or another, are not running for re-election this November and thus had cast their last votes.

Yet come January, lawmakers likely will be saying "hello" again to some of their former colleagues, as the ex-legislators turn into lobbyists.

Missouri ranks near the top in the nation in the number of ex-lawmakers now lobbying in the state Capitol, according to a new study.

During the 2005 legislative session, Missouri had 46 lawmakers-turned-lobbyists -- placing it fifth behind only Texas (70), Florida (60) and Illinois and Minnesota (50 each), The Center for Public Integrity determined.

The Washington, D.C., institute matched the names of state lobbyist registrations in 2003, 2004 and 2005 with state legislative rosters dating back to 1975. Then it conducted numerous interviews with those lobbyists, reporters and others to verify the matchups. In some cases, the conversations turned up even more ex-lawmakers now lobbying. The group found 1,315 lawmakers-turned-lobbyists nationwide -- a figure it says is probably conservative.

The report makes no conclusions about why some states have roughly twice the average number of lobbying ex-lawmakers. But by looking at other data, there are several factors that could help explain Missouri's high ranking.

1. Term limits. Missouri is one of just 15 states that place limits on how long people can serve in the state House of Representatives and Senate. In Missouri's case, it's eight years in each chamber. After several years in the legislature, many lawmakers become experts about certain issues and the legislative process. Some turn their expertise into profit.

2. Waiting period laws. About half of all states have laws requiring a waiting period of one or two years before lawmakers can become lobbyists. Missouri does not.

3. More lawmakers. Another factor potentially contributing to Missouri's high number of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists is its sheer number of legislators. Missouri has 197 House and Senate seats, ranking as the seventh largest legislature nationally.

4. Money and Population. Put simply, it's more lucrative to be a lobbyist in some states than in others. But complete comparisons among the states are impossible to make in this category, because Missouri -- and many other states -- do not require lobbyists to report their salaries.

When combining those factors, Missouri rises to the forefront. Of the top 10 lawmaker-lobbyist states, just three have term limit laws while lacking waiting-period laws. And of those, Missouri has the greatest number of lawmakers who could possibly become lobbyists.

"Sometimes there's just no rhyme or reasons for this" state having more lawmaker-lobbyists than another, Rush said. "Or the individual culture of the statehouses are so distinct you can't quantify them."

In Missouri's case, it seems the laws and have created a prime culture for conditioning lawmakers to become lobbyists.

But as usual with studies, there is another way of looking at the figures that don't make Missouri appear so unusual.

Because Missouri has a relatively large number of registered lobbyists -- 1,130 -- its percentage of ex-lawmaker lobbyists was 4.1 percent. That's still above the national average of 3.1 percent. But by that standard, Missouri would rank 22nd in its prevalence of ex-lawmakers in the lobbyist pool.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Capitol Correspondent David A. Lieb covers Missouri government and politics for The Associated Press.

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