The unlikeliest 2020 promise isn’t a big-spending plan like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or Andrew Yang’s universal basic income—it’s an anti-corruption proposal that would apply to just 535 Americans and cost taxpayers nothing.
This pipe dream is coming from the decidedly unflashy Senator Michael Bennet, a self-proclaimed pragmatist who has chided his rivals for their unrealistic visions of a progressive future. Bennet has pooh-poohed the idea of “free college” and actively opposes Medicare for All as too costly and too disruptive to the U.S. health-care system. “You can’t fix a broken Washington if you don’t level with the American people,” the Colorado Democrat told potential voters in a video announcing his candidacy earlier this month.
Yet one of Bennet’s signature proposals for repairing American democracy might, in its own way, be the most radical of all: a lifetime ban on members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they leave office.
Good luck with that.
The idea, one of several Bennet touched on in his announcement video, is aimed at the heart of Washington’s “revolving door,” wherein lawmakers, senior government officials, and their top aides spend their career rotating between writing laws on the Hill and influencing laws on K Street. Lobbying is the single most popular career choice for retiring members of Congress, and the ranks of ex-lawmakers in the lobbying industry have soared in the past four decades. Former House Speaker John Boehner has transformed into a paid evangelist for legal weed (after opposing it in Congress), joining Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and Democratic ex–Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and George Mitchell as former congressional leaders who took up lobbying in their golden years.