For people wondering how close the relationship is between Washington and Wall Street, look no further than former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s new job.
As you will recall, Cantor, R-Va., was turned out in June by GOP primary voters in his Richmond-area district by a virtually unknown economics professor named Dave Brat, a tea party favorite. Brat’s campaign centered on Cantor’s personal disconnection from his district and a perception of elitism. It sent the national GOP establishment reeling when the young speaker-to-be lost. While Cantor wound up being the only major scalp the tea party took in 2014 thus far, it is the biggest yet and second in size only to that of Speaker John Boehner.
The news that Cantor just signed on as vice chairman and managing director with the investment bank Moelis & Company, a 500-employee outfit with 15 international offices, describes the current state of Washington in one sentence: All too often, it works precisely the way you think it does.
Cantor will provide “strategic advice.” He’ll get $3.4 million for that advice over two years, which is about $3 million more than some flunky House majority leader would get.
“When I considered options for the next chapter of my career, I knew I wanted to join a firm with great entrepreneurial spirit that focused on its clients,” Cantor said in a statement without an apparent trace of irony. Although the company claims Cantor will be doing little lobbying of his former colleagues, we know better. For his part, Cantor was a reliable worker for Wall Street in D.C., and was heavily tipped for his help with massive contributions from the financial services industry. Ho-hum. This is how it works.
This is a well-worn storyline: Young guy goes to Congress, climbs up the ladder, assumes power, leaves and goes to work for a seven-figure salary lobbying his buddies on the Hill. This scenario is played out so many times in so many pernicious ways that it’s no wonder the voters regard Congress as a rigged blackjack table.
If Cantor had gone on to do something else besides run errands for the East Hampton set, that would have been bigger news.
We’re not sure what kind of strategic advice Cantor will share with Moelis & Company, but whatever it is will be given with the knowledge that the system favors Wall Street and not Main Street in places such as Henrico County, Va.
When the revolving door between the moneyed class and Capitol Hill spins this fast, it only increases voter cynicism about who has their interests at heart.
Now we know, again.