Ethics reminds staffers on lobbying rules

The House Ethics Committee Friday sent a reminder to lawmakers and senior staffers considering a jump to K Street: There is a one-year ban on lobbying former congressional colleagues.

The ethics panel issued an advisory on the one-year cooling off period as a reminder for anyone thinking about leaving for a position at a lobbying firm. With Democrats in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Democratic aides are in high demand among Washington’s corporate government relations offices.

The one-year ban on lobbying applies to senior-level staff making at least 75 percent of a member’s salary, according to the memo.

The restriction covers a former employee of a member, committee, or leadership office who was paid 75 percent of the basic rate of member pay for at least 60 days during the one-year period before leaving Congress. The basic rate of pay for members in 2009 is $174,000 so the threshold for senior aides to trigger the one-year lobbying ban is $130,500.

After Democrats won the majority in 2006, some wanted to impose a two-year ban on lobbying after congressional service. That effort was rejected in the House Judiciary Committee, when Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) offered a manager’s amendment to a comprehensive lobbying and disclosure reform bill that rolled back the ban to one year, keeping the prior restriction in place.

At the time, Conyers said he made the change after hearing concerns that members would have difficulty hiring “top-flight staff” if a longer period was put into place.

Friday’s ethics advisory also warned members and senior staffers about the limits on earned income and outside employment, which apply to any House officer or aide who earns an annual salary of at least $117,787 for more than 90 days in 2009.

All members and those staffers who make more than the threshold cannot make more than $26,550 in earned income this year.

In addition, the memo said all members and any officer or aide who earns an annual salary of at least $114,468 for 60 days during 2009 must file a financial disclosure form May 15.