Lobbyists are a tricky bunch to track. Their jobs are by definition behind the scenes, and politicians (especially of late) have made big displays of distancing themselves from these targets of citizen ire. So who are these K Street power players? In many instances, they’re retired politicians or their staffers, who take lucrative advantage of the deep Beltway ties they made while working on the Hill.
To shine some light on the troubling career ladder from public servant to interest-group money peddler, the Sunlight Foundation launched the Where Are They Now? project. Sunlight, which focuses on exposing the backstage dealings of the federal government, has a list of 268 former congressional staffers who retired or resigned, or whose bosses got the electoral boot when the 109th Congress ended last January. Now they need to confirm which of these individuals have recently become lobbyists and for what organizations. (Former staffers must wait a year before signing on as a lobbyist.) To manage the task, Sunlight is enlisting ordinary internet citizens, or “netizens,” to make some phone calls, ask some questions from a provided script, and uncover the old-fashioned, top-hat-wearing truth.
By December 21, just a day after the project launched, “21 citizen researchers... investigated 268 congressional staff members... and found 48 who have potentially gone through the revolving door to work for K Street.” Of that 48, 10 have since been confirmed as lobbyists, but 34 remain uninvestigated. If you want to answer the call, click here. And then be prepared to click other stuff.