With ‘instant access’ to sway Congress, Eric Cantor cashes in

Posted: Sep 02, 2014 12:05 PM
With ‘instant access’ to sway Congress, Eric Cantor cashes in
DOWN AND OUT: GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was ousted in his party's primary by tea party candidate Dave Brat. Now, he's cashing in.

CASHING IN: GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was ousted in his party’s primary by tea party candidate Dave Brat. Now, he’s cashing in.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

RICHMOND, Va. — There’s no need to feel so sorry for Eric Cantor, the U.S. House majority leader from Virginia who fell spectacularly in a June primary to a little-known college professor.

Those 13 years in Congress paid off.

Cantor, who enjoyed close ties to Wall Street during his time on Capitol Hill, will join New York investment bank Moelis & Company as vice chairman, to the tune of a $400,000 base salary, an initial $400,000 in cash and $1 million in restricted stock units, the company disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week.

It’s a great investment for the bank, to be sure, said Dave Levinthal, senior political reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization that studies money in politics.

“Almost no Republican is going to slam the door in Eric Cantor’s face if he comes knocking,” Levinthal told Watchdog.org. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cantor, whose term wasn’t up until January 2015, officially resigned from office on Aug. 18 — two weeks before the Moelis & Co. announcement.

The investment bank, which employed as many as 15 national lobbyists in 2010, spent more than $200,000 lobbying Congress in 2012, according to OpenSecrets.org data. In 2012, all of the company’s 10 lobbyists had previously been employed in government positions.

“Very broadly speaking, this is the way in Washington,” Levinthal said. “There are hundreds of examples of former members of the House and the Senate who very quickly, if not immediately after leaving office, will cash in and work in a lucrative job in the public sector at large, and specifically in a government influence job, in some cases. That may not happen to everyone. This is not unique to Republicans or Democrats. Former lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spin through the revolving door and many do it post haste.”

Cantor, who has served on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, has long been considered a friend of Wall Street — of which Moelis is well aware.

“Through more than 25 years of political and business experience, Mr. Cantor has emerged as a leading voice on the economy and job creation,” a news release from the company reads. “During his congressional career, Mr. Cantor worked to lower taxes, eliminate excessive regulation, strengthen small businesses, and encourage entrepreneurship. His commentary was often featured in publications focusing on a wide range of issues including economic matters, health care and foreign policy.”

“This is why corporations or other special interests love having members because it essentially means instant access,” Levinthal said.

Levinthal said it “serves to reason” that a company like Moelis & Co. would snatch up Cantor.

“He’s intimately knowledgeable about the industry,” Levinthal said. “So just as if someone who had served on the House Armed Services Committee, it would make perfect sense if they were working for a defense contractor. Likewise, somebody with the financial gravitas as Eric Cantor hits the open market, it makes perfect sense that an investment bank would jump at the opportunity to hire him.”

In 2012, Cantor had an estimated net worth of nearly $10 million — more than double his estimated net worth in 2004. Moelis donated a little more than $5,000 directly to Cantor’s campaign for the the 2014 election cycle.

Cantor’s wife also works in the investment world. Diana Cantor is a partner of Alternative Investment Management, LLC, an independent and privately held investment management firm, among her other roles.

At the end of the day, the revolving door of influence isn’t a Democrat or a Republican phenomenon — it’s party blind, Levinthal said.

“I always try to underscore the point that there are hundreds of examples that one could give, and this is Democrats and Republicans both,” Levinthal said. The revolving door doesn’t see partisan colors. It is not painted red or blue. It’s as purple as it can get.”

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be followed on Twitter @kathrynw5.