It has been nearly a year since Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. Since then, with legislative progress proving elusive in a divided government, the theme of the 116th Congress so far seems to be Republican retirements. Seventeen Republican House members and three incumbent Republican senators have announced that they will not seek re-election. This is a theme that we’ve seen in the executive branch as well, with historically high levels of turnover in the Trump administration.
With all this churn going on, it’s worth taking a look at the state of the revolving door between government and corporations. Leadership Connect has tracked 73 government affairs-related hires at Fortune 500 companies so far this year, as of late September. Of those appointments, 34% joined from government roles, while 36% joined from other companies, 25% from nonprofits and associations, and 6% from law and lobbying firms.
Most of the government hires were drawn from congressional staffers, including seven who worked for Republican members of Congress and four for Democratic members. Notable hires include:
- Mark Isakowitz (Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy, U.S. and Canada, Google LLC), former Chief of Staff, Office of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
- Eric Burgeson (Managing Director, Government Affairs, Delta Air Lines Inc.), former Chief of Staff, Office of Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA, 9)
- Spencer Freebairn (Director, Government Relations, Raytheon Co.), former Chief of Staff, Office of Representative Kay Granger (R-TX, 12)
- Joel Elliott (Director, Federal Affairs, Salesforce), former Chief of Staff, Office of Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-IA, 1)
- Miles Chiotti (Manager, Government Affairs, Deere & Co.), former Legislative Director, Office of Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL, 13)
- Erika Northington (Manager, Federal Government Relations, McDonald’s Corp.), former Legislative Director, Office of Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ, 10)
Hires from the federal government included officials from the National Economic Council, as well as from the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Transportation Department. Key hires include:
- Abigail Slater (Senior Vice President, Policy and Strategy, Fox Corp.), former Special Assistant to the President for Technology, Telecom, and Cybersecurity Policy, National Economic Council, Executive Office of the President
- Pete Giambastiani (Lobbyist, Textron Inc.), former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense
- Kara Osborne Townsend (Policy Director, HCA Healthcare Inc.), former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Joseph Tofalo (Corporate Vice President, Program Integration and Assessment, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.), former Commander of Submarine Forces, Commander of Submarine Force Atlantic, and Commander of Allied Submarine Command, Naval Submarine Forces, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, U.S. Department of the Navy
While all appointments from the private sector aren’t revolving door hires, strictly speaking, the vast majority have government experience. A few noteworthy cases in point: Former New York Governor David Paterson, most recently an investment director at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., joined Las Vegas Sands Corp. as senior vice president this year. Former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, who was previously a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, joined Google as vice president of Asia-Pacific government affairs and public policy in February. Raj Shah, now a senior vice president at Fox Corp.’s Washington office, was previously chair of the media group at Ballard Partners. Before that, he served as deputy press secretary in the Trump White House.