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Fine government contractors for hiring ex-officials.

20150320

The US is plagued by the "revolving door" in which people move between government agencies (and Congress) and companies that want to influence legislation. It is impossible to prohibit this directly because of the legal principal that those people have the right to do work.

It might be feasible, however, to fine companies based on the number of ex-officials working for or with them in roles that are likely to give the company unfair influence.

To have an effect, the fine would have to be a substantial fraction of the company's relevant business income (not merely its profit) for each such ex-official. This would apply only to important officials that could decide policy, not to former civil service employees.

I propose a large fine rather than simple exclusion of companies that work with ex-officials, because (1) that might exclude all companies in a given field, and (2) the fine puts pressure on every company to reduce its use ex-officials, whatever its current level of such use may be.

There will surely be some downside to this policy, but that has to be compared with the (often hidden) cost of the corruption of the current lobbying system, which has left the public in the US with nearly zero influence over political decision making.

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