‘Spinning the revolving door backward’

‘SPINNING THE REVOLVING DOOR BACKWARD’…. Quite a few successful candidates this year struck me as the kind of folks who shouldn’t have even run in the first place. Floridians elected a criminal as governor; Ohioans elected Bush’s failed budget director as a U.S. senator; Kentuckians elected an odd, self-accredited ophthalmologist to the Senate, too.

But the one statewide campaign that stood out as particularly bizarre was in Indiana, where Hoosiers did the exact opposite of what they said they wanted.

When Cooper Industries, a century-old manufacturing company based in Texas, moved its headquarters to Bermuda to slash its American income tax bill, it had to turn to a Washington insider with extraordinary contacts to soothe a seething Congress.

Dan Coats, then a former senator and ambassador to Germany, served as co-chairman of a team of lobbyists in 2007 who worked behind the scenes to successfully block Senate legislation that would have terminated a tax loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cash flow to Cooper Industries.

Now Mr. Coats, a Republican from Indiana, is about to make a striking transition. He is spinning the revolving door backward.

Exactly. If you listen to what a lot of voters say they want this year, especially in conservative states like Indiana where a huge chunk of the population identifies as Tea Partiers, it’s candidates who are ready to break with the past, question long-held assumptions, relate to the concerns of regular people, and can bring a fresh perspective to the entrenched insiders in Congress.

And with that in mind, Hoosiers, by a 15-point margin, elected an old, wealthy Washington insider, who left Indiana more than a decade ago, and who’s spent several years as a corporate lobbyist. Indeed, Coats intends to go to the Senate and vote on issues he handled as a lobbyist, and has no intention of recusing himself when his former clients will be affected by his votes.

A lot of folks have the impression that all the power in Washington rests with powerful, deep-pocketed special interests. Working families struggle to be heard, but corporate lobbyists can gain access, direct contracts, write bills, and protect loopholes out of public view.

In other words, regular American tend to resent people like Dan Coats, who parlayed his public service into a lucrative lobbying career, including his successful efforts to protect companies that shipped jobs overseas.

And yet, Dan Coats is now a senator-elect.

It’s amazing, in a disheartening way.