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Job-seeking Trump officials likely to get chilly reception on K Street

White House aides and other administration officials looking to pivot to lobbying following President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE’s defeat are likely to get a cool reception on K Street.

Most lobbying firms aren’t eager to snatch up Trump staffers, since in the eyes of employers they carry more risk than reward, several veteran lobbyists told The Hill.

The job market will be even more difficult for younger aides with little previous experience.

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“The folks in this administration, especially the folks without a previous career to fall back on, are going to have to figure out a way to reinvent themselves — do something different or go somewhere different,” said Julian Ha, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm.

Another lobbyist said Trump aides need something other than the 45th president on their résumés.

“I think for lower-level people, if working for Trump is their only card, that’s a very weak card to play,” a former George W. Bush aide said. “There are some people who have built a career in Washington, and the Trump stink can be washed off. But if your only résumé item is working for Trump, I think you’re basically un-hirable.”

K Street offers well-paying jobs, but experts say they aren’t likely to be awarded to people who hitched their wagon to Trump and may be seen as contributing to his election loss.

Lobbying firms say they’re not just looking to protect their reputations when it comes to new hires, they’re also concerned about their bottom line. 

“We had a lobbyist with one of our clients tell us, unprovoked, that if we hired a certain Trump official, that they would fire us. It wasn’t even somebody we were considering. This official was just that toxic,” a former Republican aide-turned-lobbyist said.

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“Clients want to know if you’re going to send in someone who worked in the previous administration, are they still going to get the required results? Will their calls get answered?”

Sources said most clients will not want to engage with someone who is seen as an ideologue, since the last thing corporations want is public controversy.

“Republicans who are running lobbying firms will say we just can’t do it because of the effect it would have on people who work there but also on the clients,” one headhunter said.

Nels Olson, vice chairman at management consulting firm Korn Ferry, said firms should also be wary of hiring a new team with each political tide.

“The advice that I’ve always given to clients is you don’t make long-term business decisions based on short-term political realities. You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to change your team every two years. At the end of the day, you don’t want anybody who’s too partisan one way or the other,” said Olson, who worked in the White House presidential personnel office during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Job-seekers with a background in policy instead of politics are likely to fare better, said Ivan Adler, president of Ivan Adler Associates, a lobbyist recruitment firm.

“When the music stops here, there will not be enough chairs for everybody. This is a case where less political profile could be better,” he said. “Those folks that came from substance-based backgrounds particularly on the Hill who are issue-based first and nonpolitical will find a seat.”

Trump alumni so far have a mixed record in terms of their post-administration jobs.

Former White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerRealClearPolitics editor corrects Giuliani on Pennsylvania claim: 'This is false' Job-seeking Trump officials likely to get chilly reception on K Street Trump challenges electoral process as hopes for victory fade MORE didn’t land a downtown job, but now hosts a political show on Newsmax.

Jonathan Slemrod, former associate director of legislative affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, is now a partner at Harbinger Strategies, while Len Wolfson, the onetime assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, works as a partner at Federal Hall Policy Advisors.

Some veteran lobbyists said that experienced aides who worked for the Treasury or Transportation department are likely to face better odds than appointees from other agencies.

“A lot of other departments, it’s going to be a huge detriment — Homeland Security, Justice, State, Commerce — all the departments that have been super political. People coming out of those departments or from the White House itself are going to be very radioactive,” a former George W. Bush aide said.

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One recruiter said the tough job prospects aren’t just because of an applicant’s work in the administration, but also because of their lack of work beforehand.

“This is not an A team of talent,” the recruiter said, adding that overall there is “a lot less experience than other administrations.”

“The president for the most part has not sought some of the normal people that a Republican administration would go to,” the recruiter added.

Capitol Hill is sometimes a destination for outgoing staffers, and there will be a few more House GOP lawmakers in the next Congress, though not as many Senate Republicans. 

“Going back to the Hill, if you worked there, may be the right choice for some people,” Adler said.

Working for a one-term president can make the job hunt even harder, according to Charlie Black, a former George H.W. Bush aide. 

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“After President George H.W. Bush’s administration, some staffers went home, some took corporate jobs. It took some people a long time if they wanted to stay around D.C.,” said Black, who’s now chairman of the lobbying firm Prime Policy Group.

Olson, of Korn Ferry, pointed out that several top Nixon aides went on to lead major trade associations.

“The Nixon people were very tight, and if you look at the history of what happened with a lot of the players of the Nixon administration, they went on to have very successful lives,” he said. 

Red Cavaney, who served under President Nixon, went on to become head of the American Petroleum Institute; Dave Parker, Nixon’s appointment secretary, later became CEO of the American Gas Association; and Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler became chief executive of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

For Trump aides like Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to the president who left shortly after the election, sticking around this long or even until Jan. 20 will be viewed in a mixed light by potential employers.

“If someone has lasted three plus years, that does say something — their ability to be able to navigate and not get their head chopped off. You could say that’s a negative, because maybe they have just been complicit,” one recruiter said.