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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.

By Paul Kane  |  November 28, 2007; 6:55 PM ET
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Not to entirely dismiss the other, more important, parts of this article, but I'd really love to see pictures of Trent Lott at a KISS show. Anyone?

Posted by: Patrick Huss | November 28, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

"Their sons served as grooms in each other's weddings". Now that's pretty funny! Serving as a "groom" in someone else's wedding pretty much makes it YOUR wedding, doesn't it?

Funny typo.

Posted by: Ryan | November 28, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

"Their sons served as grooms at each other's weddings."

Paul Kane is a bright man, who seems to be telling us, Ryan, that the two sons of senators are married to each other.

Posted by: Bob | November 28, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't care about the senator's boys. The idea that this southern jackass will simply slip onto the senate floor and twist an incumbents arm for whatever is disgusting. Everyone member of the Senate (and the House, for that matter) should be forced to wait 5 years before he or she is legally (I'm sure that is a small, not-to- worry matter)eligible to prostitute him/herself in the captitol.

Posted by: TomBob | November 28, 2007 9:51 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: votenic | November 28, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

The moral fiber of America is deteriorating that pretty soon people will run for Congress only to establish ties to the corporate America that will ensure its interests and not the interests of the American people. What ever happened to ACLU? Why aren't they bringing lawsuits aginst these traitors and force Congress to enact laws that really look after the American people? Why aren't the moderators in these debates ask questions like this? But, like my opening sentence, America is loosing its moral fiber!

Posted by: Steve | November 29, 2007 1:00 AM | Report abuse

In case you ever need to use the term again, it's "strait-laced," not "straight-laced."

Posted by: Robert Sanchez | November 30, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

There's corruption in all part. Consider the comments of Bill Clinton coming out against the war on the stump in Iowa...

Posted by: eNews Reference | November 30, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Business as usual!!

Posted by: Raymond | November 30, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Ky. Druggists To Lean On McConnell Over Medicaid Payments

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Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Lott knows that he needs to get out quick and make some real dough. Otherwise, when the economic collapse comes as a result of the disastrous policies pushed through by Bush and the Republican Congress, he'll wind up just another poor cracker from Mississippi. Maybe he can get a job singing duets with his buddy Larry Craig.

Posted by: thebob.bob | December 4, 2007 12:51 AM | Report abuse

"Poor cracker" and "southern jackass." There are some very intelligent people reading the Washington Post these days.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 9, 2007 10:47 PM | Report abuse

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