It was less than three months after Ileana Ros-Lehtinen retired from the House of Representatives, where she once chaired the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, when the Florida Republican’s name appeared atop a team of lobbyists hired by a foreign government to press its case in Washington.
The K Street powerhouse Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP had represented the Hong Kong Trade Development Council since 2012, according to foreign-agent filings with the Department of Justice. But on April 1, 2019, the firm inked an updated version of its retainer agreement. Under the new contract, Ros-Lehtinen, who joined Akin Gump just days after her retirement from Congress in January, would be a “team leader” of the group of consultants tasked with the account.
That struck ethics experts as problematic—and potentially illegal. Under federal law, former members of Congress are barred for a year after leaving office from representing a foreign government for the purposes of influencing U.S. policymakers or assisting in that representation in any way.