‘Brain drain’ in Congress as staffers bolt for K St.

The revolving door is turning quickly in 2014, with more than 220 Capitol Hill staffers leaving their jobs to become registered lobbyists in the first six months of the year, according to a new report.

Legistorm, an organization that compiles and analyzes congressional data, reported that the number of departures to K Street in 2014 is on pace to exceed the last election year of 2012, when about 329 staffers left to go lobby.

Headhunters said a number of factors explain the jump, including a “brain drain” of ambitious aides who are frustrated by the legislative gridlock.

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“I think they're seeing the reality of Congress today and the inability to get things done, which leads them to seek other alternatives — which, by the way, includes less hours and higher pay,” said Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group.

“People work on the Hill because they truly believe they can make a difference, and they join the legislative branch to do so. However, I think there is a lot of frustration with the inability to get things done that is driving people away from this mission,” he added.

Chris Jones, who is a headhunter for K Street but also runs a business that places people in government jobs, said some lobby firms are making moves to prepare for what comes after the midterm elections in November.

The moves to downtown are a signal that staffers are “anticipating some shakeup in 2014,” said Jones, a managing partner at the public affairs executive search firm CapitolWorks.

There is a possibility the Senate could flip to the GOP, he said, and “some people might be getting jobs, but other people might be losing their jobs.”

“It also points to trend that many experienced staffers are not ‘feeling the love’ in terms of a rewarding professional life on the Hill,” Jones said. “No salary increases, more work, gridlock, members trying to kick them off healthcare plans, a move by some members de-emphasizing policy staff.”

“There's definitely a brain drain. And K Street is someplace they know will hire quality, smart, experienced staff,” Jones adds.

Although the pace of departures is quickening, the exodus is nowhere near the level seen in 2007, when K Street began preparing for the possibility of complete Democratic control of Washington.

At least 758 former staffers left for the private sector that year, Legistorm found.