One of the most well-traveled career paths in Washington takes politicians and staffers from government to lobby shops to think tanks – not always in that order.
John Podesta, founder of the liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, has traveled this road several times.
After working as counsel to Senate committees in the 1980s, Podesta and his brother, Tony, started the lobbying firm Podesta Associates, predecessor to the Podesta Group. He moved back to government after Bill Clinton took office, ultimately serving as the president’s chief of staff.
He later returned to lobbying during the Bush years, when he launched American Progress. Podesta, who also served as transition coordinator for Barack Obama in 2008, recently stepped down as the center’s president and CEO, but continues as chairman.
Podesta provides one of the more high-profile examples of the ease with which insiders can move among the spheres of lobbying and think tanks. But he’s certainly not alone:
- Ralph B. Everett, a former lobbyist with Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, is now president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
- J. David Hoppe was a vice president of the Heritage Foundation before becoming president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates. (Hoppe left the firm last year and is now chief of staff to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).)
- David Addington, currently a vice president at Heritage, is a former lobbyist who served as chief of staff and counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney.
When we compared our database of currently registered lobbyists with the boards of 76 major national think tanks, we found the crossovers listed in the table below. (The list grows if you broaden the matchup to lobby firms, rather than registered individuals.)
Generally, lobbyists serving on think tank boards have held high-level government positions.
Four of the 11 people on the list – Richard A. Gephardt, Paul F. McHale, Thomas M. Reynolds and Vin Weber – are former members of Congress.
Weber and Gephardt are also among the First Street 30, the top federal lobbyists of 2011.
Others on the list held prominent administration jobs. James H. Burnley is a former Transportation secretary in the Reagan administration. Kenneth M. Duberstein was Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff. Stuart E. Eizenstat served as director of President Carter’s domestic policy staff, and during the Clinton administration was deputy secretary of the Treasury, under secretary at State and Commerce, and U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Registered lobbyists with current connections to think tank boards:
|Lobbyist||Lobby firm||Think tank|
|Berl Bernhard||DLA Piper||Aspen Institute|
|James H. Burnley||Venable LLP||Jamestown Foundation|
|Kenneth M. Duberstein||Duberstein Group, Inc.||Brookings Institution|
|Kenneth M. Duberstein||Duberstein Group, Inc.||Council on Foreign Relations|
|Stuart E. Eizenstat||Covington & Burling LLP||Atlantic Council of the United States|
|Richard A. Gephardt||Gephardt Group||National Endowment for Democracy|
|Richard A. Gephardt||Gephardt Group||RAND Corporation|
|Buzz Hefti||Van Scoyoc Associates||Center for Security Policy|
|Thurgood Marshall Jr.||Bingham McCutchen LLP||Third Way|
|Paul F. McHale||McKenna Long & Aldridge||Center for National Policy|
|Thomas M. Reynolds||Nixon Peabody LLP||American Action Network|
|Ted J. Trimpa||Trimpa Group||Third Way|
|Vin Weber||Clark & Weinstock, Inc.||American Action Network|
|Vin Weber||Clark & Weinstock, Inc.||Aspen Institute|
|Vin Weber||Clark & Weinstock, Inc.||National Endowment for Democracy|
This is the second of a four-part series on the relationships between think tanks and the lobbying industry:
- Tuesday, January 24: The Think Tank-Lobby Contra Dance
- Thursday, January 26: Think Tank Scholars and Their Lobbying Ties
- Friday, January 27: Think Tanks and Their Lobbying ‘Sisters’