FILE - IL Rep. Lou Lang

Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie

Illinois is one of the only states in the U.S. that has no rules against lawmakers leaving office on a Friday and returning Monday as a registered lobbyist. 

A new analysis of each state’s lobbying restrictions for lawmakers by consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen shows Illinois – along with Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Wyoming – are the most lax in their rules about lawmakers leaving office only to return as lobbyists. 

Government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman says the pay that these former lawmakers often see is a stark contrast from their days in public office.

“The prospects of lucrative employment once you leave Congress or the legislature can be very tempting,” he said.

Illinois has seen a number of high-profile lawmakers transition into a lobbying position in an industry they’ve had an active hand in writing laws for.

Most recently, former House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, D-Skokie, resigned from his post only to return as a lobbyist. Harrisburg Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps resigned from his position to return as a lobbyist. Natalie Phelps Finnie, his cousin, replaced him in the House. Former Senate Republican floor leader Matt Murphy resigned after a decade in Springfield to be hired as a governmental affairs lobbyist for one of Chicago’s top political communications firms.  

Conversely, the report says a state just over the Mississippi River from Illinois is a positive example of how states can minimize that revolving door.

“Overall, Iowa has the 'best' revolving door policy, with a two-year cooling off period that applies to both legislative and executive officials and staff, and broadly prohibits both 'lobbying activity' as well as 'lobbying contacts' during the cooling off period,” it reads.

The “revolving door” should have citizens concerned, Holman said; not about the fact that their former officials had become lobbyists but about their votes when they were trying to get the lucrative position. 

“You can rest assured they were negotiating these [positions] while they were sitting in your legislature and passing laws that affect the State of Illinois,” he said.

Lobbyists who were lawmakers often say they took their roles as lawmakers seriously and wouldn’t vote against the benefit of their constituents.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for that purpose, but I understand the need to be for good government,” Murphy told the Center Square in response to a proposed law that would create revolving door restrictions. “I served, I think, honorably for almost 10 years and did the best I could to move the state forward, gained valuable knowledge and experience and was in a position to benefit my family with that.”

Former lawmakers from both parties work as lobbyists, including Eddie Acevedo, Pamela Althoff, John Bradley, Jerry Costello, Mike Jacobs, Lou Lang, Robert Molaro, Matt Murphy, Elaine Nekritz, Brandon Phelps, Ed Sullivan Jr., Dave Sullivan, and Michael Tryon.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.