Dozens of Republican congressional incumbents got tossed in 2006. Where are they now?
Many, of course, have already rebounded with powerful positions in the private sector. And some, like Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Representative Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, have accepted teaching fellowships at various universities; others have found more influential niches.
The five ousted incumbents listed below held positions of prominence while they served in Congress. (In the run-up to the 2006 election, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and George Allen of Virginia were presumed to be viable presidential candidates for 2008.) Surprisingly, only one of the former senators and congressmen on our list, Conrad Burns of Montana, is currently working for a K Street lobbying firm. While this might be due in part to the fact that there exists a one-year waiting period before former lawmakers can lobby Congress, it also suggests that K Street is not the only way to have sway. Here's what five of our favorite right-wingers have been doing with their newfound spare time.
Santorum Goes to War
After Santorum was trounced by Bob Casey in Pennsylvania's Senate election, he became a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. This Washington-based think tank bridges the gap between church and state by "applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy," according to the website's mission statement. Santorum was appointed to direct the EPPC's America's Enemies program, which was later renamed the Program to Protect America's Freedom. Regardless of its name, the program raises public awareness about global forces deemed as threats to the West or to religious liberty in general.
Santorum has used this platform in recent months to tout what he purports to be the superiority of Judeo-Christian values over Islamic beliefs ("these folks have had plenty of opportunities to reform, to modernize," he told a Brown University audience in April; "Christianity has become tolerant of other world views, and Islam has not"), and to warn against the threat of "Islamic fascism." In particular, Santorum has been pushing hard for a military showdown with Iran since his Senate farewell address, entitled "The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century." Referencing Winston Churchill's World War II account, Santorum has been trying desperately to draw parallels between Islamic fascism, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Communism.
Though he has been gunning for Iran, plenty of other nations are on his radar as well. In his "Weekly Threat Roundup" published on the program's website, Santorum has targeted North Korea, Venezuela, and Russia as possible enemies of the state. Using university speeches, conferences, and a forthcoming book and documentary on Iran, Santorum intends to "'connect the dots' between Tehran, Kim Jong Il's North Korea, and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, among other nations," as a recent Crisis magazine profile put it. And don't worry, it won't be hard to seek out Santorum's face and blather -- he's also got a new gig as a commentator on FOX News.
Macaca Makes Good
George Allen's "macaca" slur against a college activist working for opponent Jim Webb cost the Virginia senator his re-election bid. It is perhaps ironic, then, that Allen should find life after the Senate at the Young America's Foundation, an organization dedicated to broadening the conservative movement across college campuses nationwide. Allen is currently Young America's Reagan Ranch Presidential Scholar, working out of Reagan's Rancho del Cielo (or the "Western White House") in California.
Young America's Foundation is one of the founders of the famous, annually held Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Among its other activities is the New Journalism Project, which offers an education in journalism for students who are "intimidated by the liberal journalism department" at their colleges. The organization also issued a report last December entitled "The Dirty Dozen: America's Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses." According to Young America's spokesman Jason Mattera, "The Dirty Dozen demonstrates that professors still have an obsession with dividing people on the basis of their skin color, sexuality, and gender." Included in the "Dozen" was Swarthmore College's Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism, because "the 'non-violent' struggle Blacks pursued in the 1960s is outlined as a mode for tackling today's terrorism."
Allen will no doubt fit right in at the Young America's Foundation.
Contracts and Coups for Curt
As vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Curt Weldon insisted that Saddam Hussein had WMDs; disputed the 9/11 Commission's findings about the "Able Danger" conspiracy theory; and received intelligence on Iran from an associate of Manucher Ghorbanifar, the arms dealer whom the CIA found was fabricating intelligence during the Iran-Contra scandal. No wonder he's now the Chief Strategic Officer for Defense Solutions, a defense contractor based in Weldon's old district outside Philadelphia.
Weldon received a great deal of negative publicity during his election campaign, when the FBI investigated him for securing lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter worth $1 million. But Jim Donahue, Defense Solution's Director of Project Management, told the Prospect that the firm has had a longstanding relationship with Weldon running business development conferences, and that he had no reason to question Weldon's integrity or honesty. "I really thought there was a lot of sensationalizing in the media about him," Donahue said.
According to Donahue, Weldon was instrumental in organizing Defense Solution's outreach to Bangladesh in the wake of the recent military coup that has installed an interim government there. General Moeen Ahmed, the head of the military in Bangladesh, knew of Defense Solution's contract to rebuild 77 Soviet-style tanks for U.S. forces in Iraq, and he wants similar vehicles for Bangladesh.
In March, Weldon led an envoy of retired military personnel to Dhaka in order to foster better relations between the United States and Bangladesh. In addition to military vehicles, Bangladesh wants to open branches of Prime Bank Limited in Bangladeshi communities in the United States. This new partnership comes despite growing instability in Bangladesh and United Nations allegations that the country's armed officials have been relying on murder and torture as a means of law enforcement.
Burn, Baby, Burns
The fact that Conrad Burns accepted more money from Jack Abramoff and his associates than any other senator or representative -- approximately $150,000 -- effectively sunk his re-election campaign against Jon Tester in Montana. Soon after the election, Burns joined GAGE Business Consulting and Government Affairs as a senior advisor, where his former chief-of-staff Leo Giacometto is a founding partner. Unsurprisingly, Burns has a sordid history with GAGE, replete with enough ethical violations to make his Abramoff ties look clean.
According to Roll Call, while Burns was in Congress he earmarked $8 million for a NASA project in Montana. Specifically, Burns directed $3.1 million to the Inland Northwest Space Alliance (INSA) in 2003, which was created by the University of Montana. The Missoulian, a Montana newspaper, reported that between 2003 and 2005, INSA paid $350,760 to GAGE and Compressus Inc., where Giacometto served as a vice president and lobbyist. (Burns' daughter served on the board of directors at Compressus.) In addition, Giacometto was a lobbyist for the University of Montana, and received nearly $80,000 for his services. Burns, Giacometto, and GAGE are currently under investigation.
The Pombo Mambo Continues
Richard Pombo of California's 11th District has been dubbed the "Darth Vader of the environment." As the chair of the House Resources Committee, Pombo fought unabashedly to sell off National Park lands, allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and abolish the Endangered Species Act. He was also responsible for lifting a quarter-century moratorium on offshore drilling. Back in November, environmental advocates had something to celebrate when Pombo was replaced by wind-energy consultant Gerald McNerney.
Now Pombo is back again, pushing his anti-environmental agenda as a senior partner for Pac/West Communications, a government affairs firm. Tim Wigley, Pac/West's Executive Vice President, told the Prospect that they were impressed with Pombo's leadership in the House on environmental issues. "We've known and watched Congressman Pombo for years," Wigley said, "and he's going to broaden our knowledge and expertise on natural resources."
According to Wigley, Pombo joined Pac/West this spring, and he has been touring the country, speaking publicly on the state of natural resources in our current Congress. When asked whether Pombo's poor ratings among environmental advocates factored into Pac/West's decision to hire him, Wigley maintained, "He only has a 'poor rating' among people who don't like him." Environmental record aside, Pombo also accepted $35,000 from clients of Jack Abramoff and paid his own wife and brother a total of $357,000 for "campaign services." Those ethical violations didn't faze Wigley, however, who said, "The enviros used whatever they could as a way to take him out of office."
All in all, these five officials' post-congressional career moves serve as a reminder that politicians don't just disappear -- or lose all their influence -- when voters decide to give them the boot from office. The class of 2006 losers are going to be ones to watch in the years to come.