Hiring a former congressman, senator, or cabinet official as your lobbyist or consultant has plenty of obvious advantages, like gaining knowledge of the legislative process and access to those in power. But there's another asset: the ability to get your own guy on TV or in the newspaper appearing as a disinterested elder statesman.
Just now, I was watching CNBC, and host Joe Kernan introduced New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg as former governor and former senator, before quickly mentioning that he's now an “international advisor.” My kids were climbing on me at the time, so I may have missed it, but I think Kernan skipped the words “at Goldman Sachs.”
I didn't hear Gregg talking Goldman's book, but plenty of times I've seen the press give a revolving-door ex-lawmaker the elder statesman treatment. Like when former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole basically endorsed Obamacare, and the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, AP, and others omitted the fact that Dole is a health-care lobbyist.
Tom Daschle, who works at a lobbying firm, and Bill Frist, whose fulltime job is investing in health-care companies, got the same sort of treatment, too.
Former National Security Agency chief Michael McConnell writes and speaks about the need for more cybersecurity investment without anyone mentioning he's in the pay of Booz Allen, trying to sell cybersecurity systems.
The fault here obviously lies with the media types running these guys' columns or giving them airtime without full disclosure. But it's also another sad way in which “public service” can be so lucrative when put to work for special interests.