After losing her 2014 re-election bid in the most expensive Senate race ever, North Carolina’s former Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is still in D.C., employed by Capitol Hill’s biggest and most-profitable lobbying and law firm.
“I miss being in the U.S. Senate,” Hagan said Tuesday in an interview.
But she’s still in what she calls “wait and see” mode on whether she’ll register as a lobbyist – a job that would again put her inside the halls of Senate buildings. Former members of Congress are barred from becoming lobbyists until they’ve been out of office for at least two years. And if she does register, federal law would require her to file documentation about whom she represents and on what issues.
Hagan holds a law degree from Wake Forest University and has lived in Greensboro, N.C., for 30 years.
For now, Hagan said, she’s focused on her new role at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. She’s worked there since January as a senior policy consultant, advising the firm’s clients on governmental affairs issues. Hagan is also an attorney, licensed to practice in North Carolina and Florida.
Hagan declined to say which of the firm’s clients she is working with. Akin Gump spokesman Benjamin Harris said company officials do not discuss publicly who their clients are.
She will serve as a public policy consultant for a variety of industries, including health care and financial services clients, according to the firm. Both are major industries in North Carolina.
Some of Akin Gump’s largest clients last year included hospital advocacy groups, Native American tribes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris tobacco, and technology companies such as Amazon and Samsung, according to lobbying disclosure forms.
“The thing about public policy is that it still keeps you in the fold. ... I think I can add a lot to the discussion,” Hagan said.
Hagan served on committees that focused on the military, health and education, banking and housing, and small businesses.
If she does choose to be a lobbyist, the connections she made during her six years she spent in the Senate could help her. And the path to lobbying and advocacy work is well-paved for former members of Congress.
Half of the members who weren’t re-elected or left their seats last year are now working for lobbying firms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ “Revolving Door” database. And Akin Gump has employed more former members of Congress and their staff members than other other lobbying firm in D.C., the database shows.
Hagan visits N.C., S.C. for friend Clinton
Hagan left office in January 2015 after then-North Carolina State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis beat her in a fierce general election race. Tillis benefited from large amounts of cash pumped into the race from outside groups and the Republican Party’s national campaign committee.
More outside money was spent in 2014 to support Tillis than to support Hagan, however, several groups combined to spend nearly twice as much opposing him as opposing her.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $13 million in outside money was used to support Tillis, and $20.5 million specifically to oppose Hagan. But Hagan benefited too: Outside groups spent $37 million to oppose Tillis and $7.8 million to support Hagan, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
More than a year later, Hagan says the influence of outside money significantly hurt her chances in the race. She blames the 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, in which the court ruled individuals, nonprofit organizations and corporations may give unlimited amounts of money to “super PACS.”
Those groups, then, typically spend millions running TV ads and campaigning for or against candidates without giving directly to political campaigns.
We’ve got to come to grips that this is not good for the general public.
Kay Hagan, former U.S. senator, speaking about the Citizens United ruling, which allows unlimited donations to ‘super PACS’
Hagan this week called the presence of unlimited corporate money in politics “totally wrong” and said the Citizens United ruling, paved the way for the wealthiest people to have a “megaphone” and influence on lawmakers.
“We’ve got to come to grips that this is not good for the general public,” she said.
Hagan, a 62-year-old former state senator and banking executive, works in D.C. full time but makes frequent trips home to Greensboro, N.C., where her husband lives. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Recently, she’s spent time as a surrogate on the campaign trail for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “I’m 100 percent in her camp,” Hagan said this week.
Both Hillary and Bill Clinton helped Hagan in the 2014 election. Hagan has campaigned for Clinton in North Carolina and South Carolina in recent months.