Money and Democracy

Published — January 14, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

On Capitol Hill, the more things change …


It didn’t take long for some new House Republicans to decide that inside-the-Beltway wisdom is essential after all. Many have hired tried-and-true Capitol Hill veterans as their chiefs of staff.

Freshman Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, picked John Goodwin, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, as his chief of staff. Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, said Goodwin’s “vast Capitol Hill experience will be an excellent resource to Idaho as I begin the people’s work in Congress.”

Goodwin cut his teeth working for two House members from 2005 to 2007, and then went to work as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. He was part of a large cadre of NRA in-house registered lobbyists on whom the organization spent about $2 million a year.

Some bills Goodwin lobbied on recently: amnesty for veterans to register firearms, authority for gun owners to carry a concealed weapon in a state other than where they live, and legislation to eliminate gun restrictions in the District of Columbia.

Two more examples of brand-new lawmakers who decided Washington insiders weren’t so bad after all — Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., turned to Capitol Hill veteran Patrick Rothwell, and Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., a political neophyte endorsed by Tea Party Express, chose Michael Tomberlin, who has more than a decade of Washington experience.

Rothwell, previously chief of staff for the Republican Policy Committee, has served as legislative director for Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter, R-Mich., and on the staffs of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the late Rep. Charles W. Norwood, R-Ga. Rothwell earned a “Revolving Door” designation from the Center for Responsive Politics for his work on Capitol Hill and as a lobbyist with Van Scoyoc Associates, where his client list included Alcoa, Boeing, and defense contractors.

Tomberlin previously was chief of staff for Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., and has worked for the Republican Study Committee and the Office of the House Majority Leader, according to LegiStorm.

Labrador, Barletta, and Cravaack are hardly unusual.

“Nearly 75 percent of all new House members opted for an experienced Washington hand as their top staffer,” according to an analysis by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Of the 96 chiefs of staff, at least 60 have previously worked for a member of Congress or a committee, Roll Call reported.

The Republican House leadership urged members to hire experienced party loyalists. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., House minority leader, said in his 144-page guide to new congressmen that their first priority should be hiring a qualified — and Republican — chief of staff.

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