For Sen. Lugar, GOP primary defeat could be ticket to K Street career

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is expected to lose his bid for another term in Congress next Tuesday, raising speculation that he might head to K Street to cap off his long career in politics.

There are indications Lugar is trailing in the primary race against Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), a Tea Party favorite who has the backing, and the financial support, of influential conservative groups.

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Should Lugar be ousted, lobbying insiders said the foreign-policy expert and longest-serving Republican senator would be in high demand on K Street.

“I see him playing a senior statesman-consigliere role,” said Ivan Adler, a principal at the McCormick Group who specializes in government affairs. “I think he can provide tremendous value, years of know-how and understanding how the Senate works. He’d be a fabulous catch.”

Adler pointed out that Lugar has been a high-ranking member on the Agriculture Committee as well as Foreign Relations, experience that is highly prized by law and lobby firms.

Headhunters said Lugar could make more than $1 million per year if he chose to work full-time at a government affairs or lobby firm, and could pull in $250,000 annually in a part-time role, perhaps for as little as one day of work a week. 

Whether Lugar wants to get involved in lobbying is another matter; Lugar is 80 years old, and would draw a robust congressional pension earned during his 36 years in office. Some close to the senator said they expect him to cut back on his workload while staying involved with the issues he cares deeply about.

Another career route would be involvement on the boards of thinks tanks and foreign-policy organizations.

“He’d likely stay involved in some level. At the same time it’s clear he’d probably ratchet back on his schedule a little bit,” said one senior Republican strategist close to Lugar, who asked not to be named. “The money is not going to be an issue for him. He can give some speeches that could pay very well.”

Most doubted that Lugar would consider a Cabinet appointment under President Obama, with whom he had a friendly relationship in the Senate, or with GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. 

“The daily rigors of a Cabinet post are exhausting,” said the strategist close to Lugar, adding that he might consider a shorter-term appointment to a bipartisan board or as a special envoy to a region, similar to the role former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) played for Obama in the Mideast.

Lugar’s campaign has publicly refused to consider the possibility that he would lose the primary.

“After Senator Lugar wins the primary, he will welcome Treasuer Mourdock’s support in winning the Indiana Senate seat, gaining Republican control of the U.S. Senate, retaining Republican control of the U.S. House, retaining Republican control of the Indiana State House and Governor’s mansion, and defeat President Obama in the fall,” said Lugar campaign spokesman Andy Fisher when asked what Lugar might do if he loses the primary.

Mourdock, seemingly confident in his chances, said he’d like to see Lugar put his foreign-policy expertise to good use serving the next administration.

“I would love to see him use his foreign policy expertise and be there for whoever the next president is, whether it’s Mr. Obama or Mitt Romney, and more specifically use that for Indiana as Hoosiers do more development,” Mourdock said. “Because he’s been at the table for so long he’d have a point of view that’d be worth listening to. We don’t always agree on foreign policy, but he certainly has a wealth of experience on the topic.”

A number of lobbyists speculated that Lugar might take a part-time job with a law firm specializing in international affairs to supplement his pension while spending the rest of his time on signature issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and chemical and biological weapons.

“He probably will have some relationship with a large law firm with international clients, energy and defense, more to keep his foot in the policy and political waters,” said Chris Jones, a managing partner at CapitolWorks, a K Street headhunting firm. “I don’t think he’d register as a lobbyist — I think he’d be more of a senior government relations adviser. I could see him sitting on some boards and being a part of a think tank.”

Some possible landing spots could include the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group co-founded by former Senate Majority Leaders Mitchell, Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) that focuses on finding bipartisan solutions to policy problems. Other possibilities mentioned include the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, run by former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), and the center-left Brookings Institution.

Less likely would be the conservative American Enterprise Institute or Heritage Foundation. Both think tanks have foreign-policy teams dominated by neoconservatives who in the past have sparred with Lugar, who has a less interventionist viewpoint.