House Speaker Paul Ryan could very well follow other lawmakers into lucrative law and lobbying jobs after he leaves Congress next year. Firms will almost certainly woo him with large pay packages to attract his business and political ties.
Ryan and more than two dozen other Republicans, including three senators, are retiring. Some face uphill primary battles or are winding up long congressional careers. Others still are turned off by partisan rancor, and still others don’t want to be around if the GOP loses control of one or both chambers in November’s midterms.
Around 20 Democrats also have indicated they won’t seek reelection. Many who leave the Hill will stay in Washington where their job prospects are rosy—particularly for Republicans because of their contacts with industry and government decision makers in the current administration.
In the two decades Ryan has served in Congress, 430 of his Senate and House colleagues— both Republicans and Democrats—have joined law or lobbying firms, or formally registered as lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Some sit on corporate boards or represent trade associations or businesses. Others hold director seats and lobby.
“Ryan has access to everyone, and he will be a magnet for potential clients,” said Jack Zaremski, president of New York-based legal recruiter Hanover Legal Personnel Services, Inc.
Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, wouldn’t be the first speaker to move into lobbying. John Boehner, his most recent predecessor, went to D.C. powerhouse Squire Patton Boggs. Newt Gingrich is currently looking for a position at a global law firm after stepping down from Dentons, which he joined in 2015 as a client adviser.
Ryan, like Boehner and Gingrich, doesn’t have a law degree or legal experience. But that wouldn’t deter some firms from paying big.
Skipping law school and years of associate drudgery, former lawmakers can go right to a firm’s seven-figure earning level. They can command “between $1 million and as much as $3 million a year,” said Craig Holman of government watchdog Public Citizen.
The lower amount would be the equivalent of a partner salary at a large firm. The $3 million level would be comparable to earnings of equity partners at elite firms. And for Ryan and his legislative alumni, that’s in addition to congressional pensions.
In Ryan’s case, “his high profile makes him very attractive. I would be surprised if he would go for less than $2 million,” said Jeffrey Lowe, global law firm practice leader for Major, Lindsey & Africa. The legal recruiter handles high-level moves of government officials, including some lawmakers to private law and lobbying firms.
Ryan makes $223,500, the largest salary in government after the president and vice president, and is due a congressional pension of about $85,000 annually.
“You would not find him working on an hourly basis writing briefs or merger agreements,” Lowe said, if he were to move to private practice. “Ryan would be among those that are influencers and door openers for clients. If clients have an issue, he would be a person who would help find the right government person to talk to or the right lawyer to deal with it.”
Only about 10 firms would be in the category of hiring at Ryan’s level, Lowe said.
Prominent law firms which also provide lobbying services that could explore a Ryan hire might include Akin, Gump, which is No. 1 on the Center for Responsive Politics list of firms with the most lobbying revenue. Brownstein, Hyatt, Squire Patton Boggs, Holland & Knight, Covington & Burling, and K&L Gates are others.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, is at Kasowitz Benson, where name partner Mark Kasowitz is a personal lawyer to President Donald Trump. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) went to Nixon Peabody but later left.
Republican congressmen who departed Capitol Hill in 2017 and hired by Big Law firms include Ander Crenshaw, who went to King & Spalding, and Randy Forbes, who landed at Greenberg Traurig. Both are lawyers.
Former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R), also a lawyer, is a registered lobbyist. He’s worked at two law firms since leaving government after losing the 1996 presidential election. Dole, 94, currently works for the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird, notably representing the government of Taiwan.
Ryan, who has espoused smaller government, may wind up in corporate boardrooms if he is reluctant to work in pure lobbying or a lobbying-related job, which are seen as directly trying to influence government policies and decisions.
A board seat could be attractive for a few years since meetings typically occur several times a year, meaning Ryan could operate out of his home base in Janesville, Wis.
Also, Ryan says he’s tired of being a “weekend dad.”
Bohener plans to join the advisory board of a cannabis producer and already serves on other boards, in addition to his post at Squire Patton Boggs, where former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R) and ex Sen. John Breaux (D) also work.
Ryan could draw more than $1 million a year if he sat on several corporate boards, Fred Foulkes, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, told Bloomberg News.
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said her boss doesn’t yet know what he’ll be doing.
“He won’t be making any decisions about that until the end of his term,” she said.
Ryan will have to refrain from lobbying for a specified period, according to congressional rules. It is one year for representatives and two years for senators. Any compensation from boards, law and lobbying, speaking or other sources doesn’t have to be disclosed.
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