Retiring Sen. Snowe would be near top of K Street wish list, insiders say

Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would move toward the top of K Street’s recruiting class if she decided to become a lobbyist next year.

Several headhunters told The Hill that because of Snowe’s long service in the Senate, senior experience on prized committees and bipartisan, centrist reputation, the Maine senator would be a hot commodity in the influence industry. She could expect a starting annual salary at a law or lobby firm of between $500,000 and $1 million, according to headhunters’ estimates.


Larry Latourette, president of Veritas Lex, said he considers Snowe one of the top potential recruits next year. 

“Bottom line, many blue-chip clients would be thrilled to have Olympia Snowe representing them,” said Latourette, a headhunter for law and lobby firms. “While I doubt if she will sign up for a full-time lobbying gig after deciding that life was too short to put up with the Hill’s partisanship for another six years, she would be a home run for any such firm lucky enough to attract her.” 

Headhunters said they could see Snowe, known as a hard worker, slotting in as a lobbyist, though they said she would also be a good fit for a senior adviser position that wouldn’t require her to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

In recent years, a number of ex-lawmakers have taken advisory positions on K Street that do not require them to directly lobby their former colleagues in Congress.

Snowe announced Tuesday that she would not seek reelection. The announcement was a surprise to many, and the now-open seat in liberal-leaning Maine could help Democrats hold the Senate.

If Republicans were to win control of the upper chamber in 2012, headhunters believe Snowe’s value on K Street would rise, but only marginally so.

“Not enough to make a difference,” said Ivan Adler, a principal at the McCormick Group, about the rise in Snowe’s worth if the Senate switched hands.

“Even if the Senate remains in the hands of the Democrats, her ability as a Republican to work across party lines makes her very valuable,” Adler said.

In an interview Wednesday on MSNBC, Snowe was not specific about her future plans, though she said she would like to help end what she sees as Capitol Hill’s dysfunctional culture. 

“In looking forward, this is a new chapter in my life. I decided if I was going to do something different, it had to be at this moment in time. I’m going to be giving my voice to what should change here in the United States Senate and in Congress to get things done for the American people,” Snowe said.

Chris Averill, Snowe’s communications director, said the senator “doesn’t have anything lined up” for her post-Senate career.

“She’s going to keep active; she’s not riding off into the sunset, but she hasn’t been offered anything at this point,” Averill said.

Contacted by The Hill about Snow’s future plans, a spokesman for her campaign said she would answer questions from reporters at press conference Friday in Portland, Maine. 

A former aide to Snowe predicted lobbying would be one of the senator’s career options.

“I don’t know her feelings specifically on becoming a lobbyist, but I am certain it is among the possibilities she will eventually consider,” said Ken Lundberg, a former communications director for Snowe. He said he could see the senator taking a position at the University of Maine, her alma mater.

“She loves spending time in Maine. I am certain that whatever path she takes, Maine will be at the center. She’s an institution there, and well-regarded,” said Lundberg, now a principal at the public relations firm Sixth Street Group.

Snowe, 65, probably won’t be lured to K Street by high salary offers alone. The senator is worth $9.9 million, making her one of the richest members of Congress. The bulk of that wealth comes from shares in the Education Management Corp., where Snowe’s husband, former Maine Gov. John McKernan (R), is chairman of the board.

First elected to Congress in 1978, Snowe served eight terms in the House and three terms in the Senate. She is on several committees, including the Senate Commerce and Finance panels.

Snowe was a key player during negotiations over the new healthcare reform law, though she ended up opposing the final package. 

Her position at the center of recent legislative battles has made her well-known to both parties in Washington.

“I think she’s well-positioned to have conversations with people in the Obama administration and in Reid’s office,” said Chris Jones, managing partner of CapitolWorks. “She is not known as a partisan warrior.”

Cameron Joseph contributed to this report.