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Herseth Sandlin registers as lobbyist, takes heat from GOP

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is now a registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Herseth Sandlin registered in July as a lobbyist for Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC, the Washington, D.C., law and lobbying firm she joined on March 1.

"Last month, OFW Law filed forms as required by law that reflect my work solely with executive branch agencies on behalf of South Dakota-based clients," she said in an e-mail response to a Daily Republic question.

"South Dakotans believe in the value of hard work, following the law, and using their talents in a productive fashion, and that is exactly what I am doing."

On March 3, Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, said while she still may run for office again someday, she also looked forward to a new challenge.

"There's life after 40 and there's life after Congress," she said in a telephone interview with The Daily Republic.

While federal law prohibits her from lobbying Congress for a year after she left office, Herseth Sandlin can lobby other government agencies, including the White House.

According to the lobby disclosure reports, she will lobby the U.S. Department of Agriculture on behalf of Beef Products Inc., on food safety issues. Beef Products Inc. is headquartered in Dakota Dunes.

Herseth Sandlin will also lobby the Air Force on "issues relating to defense" for Raven Industries, according to the lobbying report filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives and the secretary of the Senate. Raven Industries is a Sioux Falls-based "diversified technology company," according to the company website.

South Dakota Republican Party Executive Director Tony Post issued a statement about Herseth Sandlin's lobbying.

"Herseth Sandlin is now officially cashing in on all those connections she made while serving in Congress by offering them up to the special interests who can afford them," Post wrote in a news release.

He provided links to documents on file with both the Office of the Clerk in the U.S. House and the Senate Office of Public Records to confirm that Herseth Sandlin is a lobbyist.

Post wrote of her work as a "well-heeled lobbyists in Washington, D.C." and said she would seek "to curry favor from her former colleagues for the highest bidder."

He also raised the question about her commitment to South Dakota.

"We knew Herseth Sandlin's lobbying was only a matter of time when she chose to stay in Washington, D.C., rather than come back to South Dakota after the election last November," Post wrote.

That's a point the GOP tried to make during last year's campaign and after Kristi Noem defeated Herseth Sandlin in the Nov. 2 election. The Republicans have tried to label Herseth Sandlin as a non-South Dakota resident, which she has denied.

Herseth Sandlin, her husband Max Sandlin, himself a former congressman and now a lobbyist, and their son have a home in Brookings. Herseth Sandlin said she plans to spend a few weeks in Brookings this month and in September.

The family also has an apartment that allows them to work in Washington, D.C.

While lobbying was the topic of the release, politics and future campaigns were on the minds of the state Republican Party.

"We're confident South Dakotans won't soon forget Herseth Sandlin's trip through the revolving door if she ever attempts to seek office again," Post said in the release.

Herseth Sandlin has run for Congress six times.

She was defeated by Bill Janklow in 2002 but won a special election to fill the seat after he resigned in 2004, defeating Larry Diedrich. She again bested Diedrich in the regular election in November 2004.

In 2006, she breezed past Bruce Whalen, and she overwhelmed Chris Lien in 2008.

In 2010, Herseth Sandlin, seeking her fourth full term, was defeated by Noem, making her 4-2 in statewide elections.

She is not the first former South Dakota lawmaker to make money in Washington after leaving office.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., worked as a lobbyist after his defeat by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in 2002 and before he entered the race against then-Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in 2004.

Thune, whose one-man firm he dubbed The Thune Group, was paid $220,000 by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad from 2002 to 2004. He was the state railroad director from 1991 to 1993.

Once Thune was elected to the Senate, he pushed to help DM&E acquire $2.3 billion in federally backed loans for its track rehab program, an effort that eventually proved unfruitful.

Daschle, who has not registered as a lobbyist, works as a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, an international firm with 4,200 lawyers that does lobbying in Washington, D.C., and in nations across the globe.

"I provide my clients with analysis, not access," Daschle wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO when it did a story on his post-Senate work in 2009. "I offer them strategic advice on public policy matters, including analysis of the substance, procedure and politics associated with different policy initiatives, whether they be legislative, regulatory or otherwise."

Former South Dakota Sens. Larry Pressler, a Republican, and George McGovern, a Democrat, have also done work for lobbying firms after they left the Senate.