Voters: Shut the Revolving Door

June 8, 2015 at 1:10 pm ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made headlines last week for denouncing the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, for appointing a former Goldman Sachs attorney to serve as the SEC’s chief of staff. But Democrats aren’t the only ones with a dim view of the so-called “revolving door” between the public and private sector, according to new Morning Consult polling data.

When asked if company executives should be able to take government jobs that involve regulating their former industry, 59 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans replied no. Similar majorities – 57 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans – said government officials should not be employed in private sector jobs that are similar to their federal employment.

That puts many voters in the same camp as Warren, whose criticism of White didn’t stop at her hiring of Andrew Donohue, the former Goldman lawyer who worked for the SEC before heading to Wall Street. She also went after White’s work before joining the SEC. As a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, White defended clients such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, companies that are regulated by the SEC.

Fifty-four percent of Democratic voters and 52 percent of Republicans polled said there should be an intermediate period before private-sector executives could take federal government positions where they would regulate their previous industry.

The bar is noticeably higher for government employees.

Seventy-six percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans said government officials should be required to take an intermediate period before working at private sector lobbying positions related to their prior federal work.

White joined the SEC in 2013, the same year she left Debevoise & Plimpton.

President Obama addressed the “revolving door” on his first full day in office with Executive Order 13490, which mandates that all appointees to the federal government must observe a two-year period where they cannot deal with former employers or clients. It also blocks former lobbyists entering federal positions from participating in any government matters that they lobbied on in the two years preceding their start date.

For those leaving the federal workforce to join the private sector, Obama’s executive order prohibits them from communicating with former colleagues for two years.

The poll was conducted May 29 through May 31 among a national sample of 2,173 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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