Eric Cantor Cashes In

by Dish Staff

He’s got a plum job at Moelis, an investment bank:

Since he was elected Majority Leader in 2011, Cantor earned $193,400 a year, around $20,000 more annually than a rank-and-file member. But as Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Moelis, he will receive a $1.4 million signing bonus, $1.6 million in incentive compensation next year and a $400,000 base salary — plus reimbursement for the reasonable cost of a New York City apartment for his first 12 months, and a hotel equivalent rate thereafter.

Annie Lowrey talks about the move with Dennis Kelleher, “a former corporate lawyer and longtime Senate staffer who now heads the nonprofit Better Markets, the banking lobby’s lonely public-interest opposition in Washington.” How Kelleher understands the hire:

“Wall Street is after what it’s always buying in Washington: access, influence, and unfair advantage. And Cantor is a big catch for anybody who wants access.

Look, if you’re in congressional leadership for X number of years, you know plenty that’s worth a lot of money. If you’re the majority leader, who’s in charge of the agenda and vote counting? One of your jobs is to make sure you’re doling out favors to people. There are dozens and dozens of House members indebted to Eric Cantor for the things he’s done for them. You’re worth a lot.

“In addition, Eric Cantor knows why some things got done and other things didn’t get done. He knows why someone voted for or against a bill or amendment. He knows how to strategically target everybody in the House on the issues that anybody cares about in a way that’s close to unique. He’s not going to crudely do it in a way that puts the scarlet-L lobbyist on his lapel. He and the rest of the influence peddlers at the highest level of government work the shadows and do indirectly what the law prohibits them from doing directly.”

But Matt Levine doubts that this was primarily about avoiding regulation. He notes, “Regulatory life is already pretty easy for Moelis”:

Cantor is there as a show of importance. Important people like to deal with other important people, and every important person Moelis hires makes it more likely that other important people will deal with them. Important people with important piles of money to be spent on important advisory fees.3 It’s a simple business, but it’s the business they’ve chosen.

Beyond the importance peddling, is there influence peddling? Ehh sure probably. “Hire us for your merger because our vice chairman is important” is a perfectly reasonable sales pitch. “Hire us for your merger because our vice chairman knows a lot of people in Washington and can probably get you through antitrust approval” is … also a good pitch, no? That’s probably some part of what “advise clients on strategic matters” means.

Patrick Caldwell remarks that such career moves are commonplace for politicians of all stripes:

Democrats sell out, too. In 2010, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced his plans to retire in 2010 in a New York Times op-ed that bemoaned the the lack of bipartisan friendships in the modern Senate and attacked the influence of money in politics. Yet shortly after he left Congress, Bayh signed up with law firm McGuireWoods and private equity firm Apollo Global Management and began acting as a lobbyist for corporate clients in all but name. Less than a year later, he joined the US Chamber of Commerce as an adviser. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pulled a similar trick, promising “no lobbying, no lobbying,” before taking a $1-million-plus job as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood’s main lobbying group.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 417 ex-lawmakers hold lobbyist or lobbyist-like jobs.