An Early Exit For Calif. Congressman

Aug 17, 2012
Originally published on August 17, 2012 5:03 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The storied revolving door between Congress and the K Street lobbying world may have spun at record speed this week. Dennis Cardoza was a congressman representing California's Central Valley until midnight Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, he was working with a big-name D.C. lobbying firm.

NPR's S.V. Date reports.

S.V. DATE, BYLINE: Democrat Dennis Cardoza had been representing the counties around Merced, Modesto and Stockton since 2003. A year ago, he decided not to seek another term, retiring at the end of this year. This week, that timing became a bit more immediate. On Wednesday, he filed a formal resignation letter with House Speaker John Boehner, effective midnight. Eight hours later, they were taking his calls at his new office, at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: They act fast there or perhaps they had sufficient prior knowledge to put together his new digs.

DATE: Sheila Krumholz runs the Center for Responsive Politics, which argues for stronger ethics laws.

KRUMHOLZ: It may seem brazen that he has been negotiating his leap to K Street while still serving in Congress, but it's not uncommon for members to do that.

DATE: Cardoza did not return phone calls seeking an interview, but Monday, he told a Sacramento newspaper he was leaving immediately because he and his wife were facing increasing parenting challenges and that nothing was going to happen in Congress for the rest of the year, anyway. Thomas Mann is with the Brookings Institution. The latest book he's co-authored about Congress is called "It's Even Worse Than It Looks."

He says the one-year wait Cardoza will have before formally lobbying his ex-colleagues is not necessarily a bad thing.

THOMAS MANN: They can go as strategic advisers, don't have the heavy lifting of schlepping around the Hill and talking to members, but still are fully compensated as members of the firm.

DATE: That compensation, Mann says, is likely at least double the $174,000 a year he was making as a member of Congress. S.V. Date, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.