The Corner

Novak on Lott’s Retirement

The Prince of Darkness takes a rather dim view of Senator Trent Lott’s decision to retire.

It is understood in Washington and Jackson, Miss., why Lott is leaving without serving even the first two years of a six-year term. By getting out now, he can collect big lobbying money in one year instead of having to wait two years, as he would under new congressional ethics regulations. . . .

Members of Congress talk among themselves about “getting out to make some money,” and they do not mean pocket change. The swollen federal government and concomitant growth of massive lobbying firms means ex-lawmakers such as Lott . . . will quickly be able to pull down seven-figure incomes. For many in today’s Congress, big money trumps public service.

Actually, federal legislators know how to build tidy nest eggs without spending one day in the private sector — none of them much better than Trent Lott. Except for one year as a practicing attorney fresh out of law school, Lott has spent his career on the public payroll — four years as a congressional staffer, 16 years in the House and 19 in the Senate. Nevertheless, the Center for Responsive Politics in 2005 calculated his net worth at between $1.4 million and $2 million, or 42nd among 100 senators. It put his annual income from the Senate and private sources at $289,710, in the top 1.5 percent of American income earners.

Jonathan H. Adler — Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in environmental, administrative, and constitutional law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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