Ex-Sen. Ben Nelson heads to K Street

Former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is joining the influence industry.

Nelson is joining a public affairs firm and becoming the chief of an insurance commissioners' group.

The former senator has been named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). He will be the group’s chief spokesman and primary advocate in Washington. NAIC is made up of state insurance regulators and helps coordinate their oversight across the country.

“I am honored to serve as CEO during such an important and exciting time in the regulatory community,” Nelson said in a statement. “After years in government, this is a homecoming for me.”

The two-term senator and former Nebraska governor has years of experience in the insurance industry. Before entering politics, Nelson was NAIC’s executive vice president; president and CEO of the Central National Insurance Group; and director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance.

“Sen. Nelson’s impressive credentials and deep knowledge of state insurance regulation are simply unmatched,” said Jim Donelon, NAIC’s president, in a statement. “His rare and valuable combination of experience in insurance and government will be a tremendous asset to our organization.”

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Nelson is also joining the public affairs firm Agenda as a senior adviser. The former senator will head up the firm’s advisory board with Ed Schafer, a former Republican North Dakota governor and Agriculture secretary during the George W. Bush administration.

“This last election proved that to get things done in Washington, you have to be able to build coalitions. That's what this business is all about,” Nelson said in a statement.

"We are excited and privileged to have Sen. Nelson and Gov. Schafer join our team," said Craig Pattee, an Agenda partner, in a statement. “These guys reflect our business strategy. They know how to work across the aisle to get things done and understand the nexus between modern grassroots advocacy, governors and states and the federal government.”

The firm’s advisory board will provide Agenda’s clients with political and policy guidance.

Nelson joins a growing list of ex-lawmakers from the 112th Congress who are heading to K Street. Former Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) are just some of the names who have taken lobbying positions.

Nelson had been viewed as a prime recruit for K Street after announcing his retirement from the Senate, with some headhunters estimating he could draw a salary of up to $1 million per year.

The former senator has not said whether he plans to register as a lobbyist, but he will be barred from lobbying Congress for the next two years under ethics rules.

This story was first posted at 10:02 a.m and has been updated.