Lott Courted By Senator-turned-lobbyist
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is a wanted man out on K Street, as he has many lobbying shops seeking to transform Lott into the first modern-era senator to quit midterm to shill for corporate clients.
And the man with the inside track to land Lott appears to be his old friend, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.). Breaux told Capitol Briefing in an interview today that he is planning a full-court press to bring Lott into his new lobbying shop once Lott retires next month. At that point Lott is officially allowed, under Senate ethics rules, to enter into serious contract talks with lobbying firms.
"I told him I wanted to be one of the first people to talk to him once he officially retires," Breaux said Wednesday afternoon in a telephone interview while he drove around his hometown of New Orleans. "I'd love to have him as part of my small group."
If Lott jumps to a lobbying firm, he will set a new precedent for the way things work in Washington: He will become the first senator in the post-World War II era to leave the chamber in the middle of his or her term for a lobbying job, according to data compiled by the Senate Historical Office.
The only other senators to quit midterm for private sector work were David Boren (D-Okla.), who left four years into his six-year term in late 1994 to become a university president, and Albert B. "Happy" Chandler (D-Ky.), who quit in late 1945 to become commissioner of Major League Baseball. Every other senator to abandon the chamber before their term was completed did so to pursue another public office, such as governor, judge or cabinet secretary, or was run out of the chamber amid scandal. A few left early because they became gravely ill.
Lott was elected to a fourth six-year term last November. By leaving next month he will not even complete one year of that term, which began in January. He has declined to say what his plans are but acknowledged he will pursue private-sector life.
Breaux announced today that he is leaving Patton Boggs, the lobbying firm where his old Cajun friend Tommy Boggs is in charge. Breaux and his son, John Breaux Jr., are forming their own lobby shop. He said he wanted to start such a firm with his son when he retired three years ago, but wasn't sure he knew enough about the private sector.
With his three-year contract at Patton Boggs expiring next month, Breaux is jumping ship and hopes his old friend Lott will join him. Back in 2004, as he prepared for retirement and after Lott had been ousted from GOP leadership, Breaux jokingly (and seriously) tried to coax Lott into starting a firm together then.
"I kept telling him he ought to retire," Breaux said.
But Lott demurred, deciding to run for re-election in 2006 and even won a seat in leadership again after last year's elections. But Lott is now retiring in time to beat a shift from a one-year to a two-year cooling-off period before he's allowed to lobby his former colleagues, a new rule that takes effect late next month.
Breaux said he thinks Lott will get "dozens and dozens of attractive offers." No Lott suitor, however, has the personal bond of Breaux.
The two started out as aides to House Democrats in the 1960s, and then got elected to the House in their own right in the 1970s. Once they joined the Senate in the 1980s, Lott and Breaux served on the Finance and Commerce committees together. In addition to their mutual southern charm, they both created legislative personas as go-to senators when it was time to cut a deal - which earned them some distrust on the left and right flanks of their caucuses.
But beyond the political ties, they share personal bonds no other lobbying firm or corporate association can match. Breaux and Lott raised their families across the street from each other in Annandale, Va. Lott's wife, Tricia, is the godmother to Breaux's youngest daughter.
Their sons served as grooms in each other's weddings. The two senators, decades ago, even planned to attend a KISS concert together with their children in suburban Maryland. (Breaux, the fun-loving, out-late-at-night senator, had to cancel because of other family commitments and the straight-laced Lott played chaperone by himself.)
In fact, if Breaux has his way, his new lobbying shop will be a father-son duo as the Breauxs are joined by Lott and his son, Chester, who has had a lobbying practice in Kentucky.
"I'd love to sell him on that idea," Breaux said.
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