Revolving-Door Bingo

Guess Tom Scully’s market worth.

Thomas Scully is administrator of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In the Dec. 3 New York Times, Robert Pear reported that Scully, who was the Bush administration’s point man on the recently passed Medicare prescription-drug bill, was at the same time discussing job offers from various interested parties. Scully told the Times that his multitasking complied with governmentwide ethics regulations for departing officials. Sad to say, he’s probably right. Here’s what it says in “Understanding the Revolving Door,” a pamphlet put out by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics:

Under a criminal law on conflict of interest (18 U.S.C. § 208), generally you cannot work in your Government job on a matter that would affect the financial interest of someone with whom you are discussing possible employment. The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch Employees (5 C.F.R. part 2635) have a similar rule that applies even before employment discussions begin, and may apply even when you have just sent a resume.

Sounds tough, doesn’t it? But the law on conflict of interest is extremely porous (at least in practice), and the regulatory prohibition described above may be ignored simply by acquiring a government-issued waiver, as Scully did.

Acting on what was either an admirable spirit of openness or a canny desire to intensify the bidding war, Scully named for the Times the three law firms and two private investment firms that have extended job offers. All of them represent companies affected by the Medicare bill, and one of them—the law firm Ropes & Gray—represents the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and several individual drug companies. In light of the Medicare bill’s stipulation that the federal government may not negotiate volume drug discounts, Chatterbox suspects that Ropes & Gray was the high bidder.

But what kind of money are we talking about? The Times quotes lawyers and lobbyists saying Scully could easily quintuple his current salary of $134,000. But that’s just another way of saying he’s likely to return to the $675,000 salary he received as president of the Federation of American Hospitals prior to joining the Bush administration in 2001. In fact, Scully is likely to do quite a bit better than that. But how much better?

Chatterbox invites qualified readers to submit (to estimates of Scully’s future salary, which for simplicity’s sake we’ll assume to be the high bid. By “qualified readers” Chatterbox means readers who work in Washington on health care policy or who lobby in Washington for other groups. Exceptions to these parameters will be granted, on a case-by-case basis, to those who can demonstrate superior knowledge of this market. All submissions will be considered anonymous, but, for verification purposes, all must include the name of your business. If you are willing to waive anonymity and allow Chatterbox to use your name and/or affiliation, please say so in your e-mail.

Once gathered, the salary figures will be added up and a median figure will be calculated. That median will be our proxy for Scully’s actual salary. Whoever chooses the figure closest to the median will be declared the winner. If Scully is willing to make his new salary public—he has no legal obligation to do so—Chatterbox will instead declare as winner whoever came closest to that.

Let’s play bingo!