The Out of Control World of Washington Lobbyists
Who says government work doesn’t pay — eventually? In another example of the ever-revolving door that government employees and lobbyists funnel through, it seems that prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department are jumping ship to join the firm of O’Melveny & Myers. Just recently, senior Justice prosecutor Benjamin Singer, in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department joined the firm as a partner, specifically to work as part of the firm’s White Collar Defense Corporate Investigations practice — in Washington, D.C. of course.
Justice Department and Fraud Investigator to Private Sector
While at the Justice Department, Singer spearheaded both the Criminal Division’s Securities & Financial Fraud Unit as well as the Health Care Fraud Unit. During his tenure, Singer led some of the most significant investigations into health care fraud.
Singer followed fellow prosecutor Nicole Argentieri, who joined O’Melveny & Myers earlier this year as part of their New York office. O’Melveny & Myers is a firm known for its team of healthcare litigators and white-collar defense attorneys.
Spokesmen for O’Melveny & Myers are thrilled to have Singer on board, describing him as “one of the most accomplished senior Justice Department lawyers to join private practice in recent years.”
At the Justice Department, Singer headed the Health Care Fraud Unit’s investigations of Medicare and other forms of health care fraud across the United States. One of his biggest cases was against Miami-based American Therapeutic Corporation executives—at the time, the largest healthcare fraud case in U.S. history. Singer also developed Medicare Fraud Strike Forces in Dallas, Detroit and Tampa.
In the American Therapeutic Corporation case, four executives fleeced the American taxpayer out of $200 million from Medicare. Sadly, the company took advantage of patients suffering from severe dementia. Company executives coerced patients into unnecessary treatment to inflate their Medicare billings. Incredibly, assisted living and nursing home owners received kickbacks from American Therapeutic in exchange for providing patients and going along with the company’s sinister scheme. Doctors were ordered to create false medical records denoting patients had certain mental illnesses that required medications and therapies.
When all was said and done, Singer and his Miami task force handed down a 38-count indictment that charged 20 individuals, including three doctors and the American Therapeutics owner, Lawrence Duran, who was sentenced in 2011 to 50 years in prison and also ordered to pay nearly $90 million in restitution.
Seemingly satisfied with his storied Medicare fraud-busting career, Singer joins many government officials who travel through the revolving door from the public roles to the private sector. Despite increased federal regulation, the line between public and private job transfers has become increasingly blurry, much to the chagrin of many Americans.
Lobbyists and Revolvers
People who make the leap from the government to the private sector often use their government connections to their advantage. Many government workers also make the leap to lobbyist, switching roles from policy maker to using government influencer by using that same policy knowledge. Fewer people take the road less traveled, going from the private sector to the public sector to develop policy around existing corporations.
White House staffers are the biggest revolvers, followed by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a report by OpenSecrets.org. Rounding out the top five revolvers are the departments of State, Commerce and the Treasury. Incredibly, Open Secrets has documented nearly 4,000 Washington staffers who have traveled through the revolving door since 2012.
From a Disgraced Politician to Lobbyist
One of their most recent examples is former Representative Blak Farenthold (R-Texas) who resigned in shame earlier this year amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Former Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, who resigned in disgrace in April 2018 amid a sexual harassment scandal, is one of the newest “revolvers.” Even though former Congressmen must wait one year after leaving office, Farenthold has taken advantage of a lobbying loophole, landing a job in just a matter of weeks as the full-time legislative liaison for the Port of Port Lavaca, Texas, making nearly double his salary.
Because of the loophole, Farenthold is free and clear to immediately start lobbying federal lawmakers and the Trump administration, even though he is not even officially registered as a lobbyist. His job responsibilities? As a Port lobbyist, the former Congressman from the district near Corpus Christi will leverage his Washington relationships to do favorable business deals for Port Lavaca.
Farenthold’s disgraceful tale was exposed when news began breaking that the American taxpayer was footing the bill for the settling of lawsuits involving Congressmen transgressions. In Farenthold’s case, the Treasury Department paid $84,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him. Farenthold certainly could have paid for it himself; in 2015, his net worth of nearly $6 million made him one of the wealthiest members in the House.
While Singer represents perhaps a less blatant “revolver” and Farenthold represents a very blatant example, most Americans agree that the unwieldy power that these Washington lobbyists enjoy is definitely out of control. They work every day to either block legislation or to slant it in favor of their clients. Many presidential candidates have talked the talk about removing money from politics and cleaning up the Washington swamp. However, few have walked the walk.
Bernie Sanders summed it up this way: “Wall Street banks shower Washington politicians with campaign contributions and speaking fees, and what do they get for it? A rigged economy, tax breaks and bailouts. All held in place by a corrupt campaign finance system.”