Former state representative becomes lobbyist - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Former state representative becomes lobbyist

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WSIL -- Former State Rep. Brandon Phelps stepped down Sept. 1 citing health reasons, but two weeks later he registered as a lobbyist.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to end the so-called "revolving door" in Springfield. He signed an order requiring those who work for him to wait a year before seeking a lobbying job, but that order did not apply to lawmakers.

Jak Tichenor, interim director of SIU's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said at least 40 former state lawmakers currently lobby at the capitol.

"You want somebody who is familiar with how the legislative process works in terms of the committee structures," Tichenor said.

Phelps served on House committees for public utilities and energy during his 15 years in office. Now Phelps represents Ameren to promote its interests, along with Foresight Energy, a leading coal producer.

Both companies donated to Phelps' political campaign: Ameren donated $85,000 while Foresight donated $28,500.

Phelps' firm also represents University of Illinois, Monsanto, fantasy sports betting sites Fanduel and DraftKings, and e-cigarette groups Vapor Technology Association and Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois.

"It's a pretty typical kind of portfolio for a firm like that," Tichenor said.

34 states have banned the so-called revolving door, including Illinois' neighbors. Kentucky has a two-year ban, Indiana has a one-year ban and Missouri bans lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for six months.

Illinois also makes lawmakers wait a year before working with a company if they had control over state contracts involving that company, but Tichenor said Illinois voters want more.

"Some of the polls I've seen, Democrats and Republicans agree that it's a good idea by 50 percent, close to 60 percent," Tichenor said.

But with no bill in the works to block the revolving door, lawmakers like Phelps can go right to work for companies on the same floor where they crafted laws.

News 3 contacted the lobbying firm Dorgan, Butcher and Phelps LLC to explain its work, but the company never responded.

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