What is the Revolving Door?

The Revolving Door Today

When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he also made a pledge to tighten restrictions on lobbying by former appointees and White House staff. In his campaign ethics plan, Obama laid out rules that kept incoming appointees from working on legislation that concerned their former industry and kept outgoing officials from lobbying the White House for the duration of his administration. When he took office, Obama issued an executive order that proclaimed as much [source: White House].

Yet, as is the case with every other administration that has sought to stop the Revolving Door, these restrictions have their limitations and failures. Obama was heavily criticized for issuing waivers that allowed individuals to circumvent the ban entirely or in part by allowing them to recuse themselves if the need arises [source: Politifact]. And, following midterm changes to his staff, some prominent officials immediately took positions in private business where they could lobby their old colleagues.

The attempts to restrict the cross-influence between the public and private sectors over the years have made it seem like the Revolving Door will continue unabated, yet solutions have been proposed. One suggestion is that the underlying inclination to leave a federal agency for work at a private corporation is that corporations pay much more than federal work does. By bringing federal employees' wages in line with those in the private sector, some suggest the urge to move on from government positions may be lessened and the division between public and private sectors may be maintained [source: Klein].

Some propose greater transparency. Congress provides the public with a searchable database of outgoing member of Congress, their staffs and the restrictions on their employment, which allows any person with a Web browser to act as a watchdog. The White House posts the names and information of appointees who've been granted a waiver to work at the White House despite their history as lobbyists. Neither branch has both and some critics have called for a more comprehensive approach to revealing Revolving Door information to the public [source: Blumenthal]. Still others suggest the proper laws are in place. They simply need to be better enforced.

For more information on lobbying and the federal government, head over to the links below. 

Related Articles


  • Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. "Hill a steppingstone to K Street for some." Washington Post. July 27, 2005.
  • Blumenthal, Paul. "Obama's revolving door: transparency." Sunlight Foundation. January 19, 2011. http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/taxonomy/term/Revolving-Door/
  • Butler, Henry N. "Unhealthy alliances: bureaucrats, interest groups and politicians in health reform." American Enterprise Institute. 1994.http://books.google.com/books?id=VVIyfTOT-fEC&printsec
  • CleanUpWashington.org. "'Revolving Door' restrictions on federal employees becoming lobbyists." July 25, 2005.http://www.cleanupwashington.org/lobbying/page.cfm?pageid=40
  • Cohan, William D. "Big profits, big questions."New York Times. April 14, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/opinion/15cohan.html
  • Gross, Daniel. "Good as Goldman." Slate. May 30, 2006.http://www.slate.com/id/2142640/
  • Klein, Ezra. "Frozen salaries and revolving doors." Washington Post. May 27, 2010.http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/05/frozen_salaries_and_revolving.html
  • Mracek, Karen and Beaumont, Thomas. "Goldman reveals where bailout cash went." Des Moines Register. July 26, 2010.http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/banking/2010-07-24-goldman-bailout-cash_N.htm
  • Politco. "Paulson's rescue plan is called 'TARP'." September 19, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13609.html
  • Politifact. "The Obameter: tougher rules against revolving door for lobbyists and former officials - Obama promise No. 240." Accessed January 25, 2011.http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/promise/240/tougher-rules-against-revolving-door-for-lobbyists/
  • Salinger, Lawrence M. "Encyclopedia of white-collar and corporate crime: A-I, volume 1." SAGE. 2005. http://books.google.com/books?id=0f7yTNb_V3QC
  • Wayne, Leslie. "Pentagon brass and military contractors' gold." New York Times. June 29, 2004.http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/29/business/pentagon-brass-and-military-contractors-gold.html
  • White House. "Executive order - ethics commitments." January 21, 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ExecutiveOrder-EthicsCommitments
  • Woolley, John T. and Peters, Gerhard. "The American Presidency Project."Accessed January 25, 2011. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=17885
  • Zald, Mayer N. and Lounsbury, Michael. "The wizards of Oz: towards an institutional approach to elites, expertise and command posts." Organization Studies.August 17, 2010.http://www.sciences-organisations-strategie.com/articles/article_19.pdf
  • Zintl, Robert T., Allis, Sam, and MacNeil, Neil. "From legislator to lobbyist." Time. January 28, 1985.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,959270,00.html

More to Explore