Former Congresswoman Sets Revolving Door Speed Record
When Republican Heather Wilson left Congress, she set a new, unofficial record for the time it takes politicians to cash in on their political connections.
Wilson stepped down as a U.S. representative from New Mexico on January 3, 2009. She then set up a lucrative one-woman consulting firm (Heather Wilson and Company, LLC) the very next day, collecting thousands of dollars from a federally-run research laboratory for services that were never really explained.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Wilson began making $10,000 a month on January 4, 2009, through a contract with Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
“Technically this is legal—the law states that Members of Congress may negotiate future employments once their successor has been elected,” wrote Lydia Dennett wrote of Project on Government Oversight. “But just because these actions do not technically break the law doesn’t mean that they should be ethically acceptable.”
Wilson actually set up her consulting business a month before leaving office, on December 8, 2008. She received her proposed contract from Sandia 11 days later.
Sandia wasn’t the only top research lab interested in hiring her as a consultant. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Nevada National Security Site also became clients of Heather Wilson and Company.
She wound up making more than $450,000 from the four labs between 2009 and 2011.
But when the Department of Energy’s inspector general’s office looked into the contracts, it couldn’t find sufficient documentation that showed what the labs received in return for paying Wilson so much money.
“The vague nature of Wilson’s agreements with the labs led to serious questions about redundant work, prohibitions that may have been violated, and whether there were any deliverables,” Dennett wrote.
The IG’s report resulted in the labs repaying the government nearly all of the money ($442,877). But Wilson got to keep her earnings “for doing who knows what,” Dennett added.
To Learn More:
New Documents Show Former Rep. Ran Through Revolving Door (by Lydia Dennett, Project on Government Oversight)
Concerns with Consulting Contract Administration at Various Department Sites (Department of Energy Inspector General) (pdf)
Extreme Revolving Door: Ex-Rep. Delahunt Profits from Earmark He Created (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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