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Washington • Former Rep. Jim Matheson has joined a Washington lobbying firm, a position that could hinder a potential run by the Utah Democrat for governor or Senate next year.
Squire Patton Boggs, a large Washington lobbying shop, announced Tuesday that Matheson would serve as a top official in its public-policy practice, though Matheson, by law, can't legally lobby Congress until 2016.
Matheson had said he may run against Sen. Mike Lee or for Utah governor, though seeking public office from the perch of a lobbyist isn't the most ideal platform.
"I think there are legitimate concerns that could certainly come back and be a source of criticism if he decided to run statewide. No doubt," said Steven Billet, director of the master's program on legislative affairs at George Washington University. "Being a lobbyist isn't exactly a profession that's well received by the constituents back home."
Matheson, who left office earlier this month, could not be reached Tuesday for comment. He had previously worked as an energy lobbyist before first running for the House in 2000.
Former Sen. Bob Bennett also turned to lobbying, including launching his own consulting firm, after losing his re-election bid in 2010 and also joined the firm Arent Fox.
Many former members of Congress turn to lobbying after their time in Congress, a revolving door that has come under fire in recent years as critics raise concerns about insider access former members provide. Even after leaving office, ex-members of the House, for example, can still go on the House floor to visit with other elected officials.
Matheson was a likely target for lobbying firms, Billet says, because of his profile as a centrist Democrat with 14 years in office.
"He hits most of the markers: He's generally a nonpartisan type, a guy who could work across the aisle," Billet says. "He's the kind of guy you look for if you're a firm like Patton Boggs to bring on."
Matheson can consult with clients for the firm, though he is restricted for one year from contacting members of Congress or their staffs to influence legislation. Squire Patton Boggs, which has faced losses of some its top talent in recent years, heralded Matheson's hiring as a great fit for its practice.
"During his time on the Hill, Jim was known as a legislator who was able to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done," former Democratic Sen. John Breaux, co-chair of Squire Patton Boggs' Public Policy practice, said in a news release. "Jim is an extremely well-respected individual who has a reputation for working hard and getting results for those he represents. We're very pleased he'll be joining us."
Matheson, who served in the House from 2001 until last year, had hinted that he wanted to remain involved in the public policy arena in some form. He has also said he would be interested in running for Utah governor or against Sen. Mike Lee in 2016.
Patton Boggs, started by Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., and currently managed by Breaux and former Republican Sen. Trent Lott, merged with Squire Sanders last year and its roster of lobbyists includes many former members of Congress and top aides.
"The high level of talent at Squire Patton Boggs gives the firm the capability to successfully address the most complex public-policy issues," Matheson said in a statement. "I am excited to join this remarkable team of professionals."