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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Joe Crowley through the revolving door

Former Rep. Joe Crowley joins a lobbying firm. 

Former Rep. Joe Crowley joins a lobbying firm.

Former Rep. Joe Crowley joins a lobbying firm.  Photo Credit: Qns. News Daily/Audrey C. Tiernan

The political saga of former Rep. Joe Crowley came to something of an end on Tuesday, when Washington lobbying and legal firm Squire Patton Boggs announced that Crowley would be joining its global public policy practice. 

The revolving door turns. 

Crowley was the No. 4 House Democrat and was poised for greater power when Democrats retook the chamber in the midterms. He was even sometimes seen as a speaker in waiting. Those hopes were dashed when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat him in a June primary.

And Tuesday evening reports indicated that Crowley would be making another major change, stepping down from his powerful role as chair of the Queens County Democratic Party. 

What’s the issue with a party leader working at a lobbying firm? 

Before the evening surprise, some younger and more progressive city Democrats expressed concern about a party leader with a freighted second job.

The New Queens Democrats, a group that has pushed for more openness and reform of the county party, released a statement noting the potential dangers of a party chair at a lobbying firm using the party role’s influence for self-enrichment. 

Crowley wouldn't have been the only one with this setup in NYC. Current Manhattan Democratic Party leader Keith Wright is now director of the lobbying firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP’s government relations group, focusing on city and state issues. And the most updated Queens County party rules on file with the state Board of Elections do not specifically forbid party leaders from working at lobbying firms.  

But NQD treasurer Jesse Rose also pointed to the particular firm that Crowley joined  one of DC’s most powerful, working on national and international issues, studded with political bigwigs and reportedly representing big businesses like Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. “Look who they’re associated with,” Rose said, citing powerful Republicans like Obama antagonist former House speaker John Boehner and the extremely socially conservative former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. 

“Are they really doing the work of the people or are they there for special interests?"

These are the kinds of questions that during the primary helped sink Crowley, a relatively liberal Democrat despite his role in party machinations.

For what it’s worth, the firm has plenty of high-ranking Democrats. The announcement about Crowley’s job included the phrase “bipartisan” twice in the first three paragraphs.

What are Crowley’s plans for the future?

It seems clear that Crowley was shopping around for a high-powered job in recent months.

“We were honored to hear from many of the great firms in town since leaving Congress,” Crowley wrote in a statement with another former congressman also joining Squire Patton Boggs.

Crowley recently completed another capstone on his elected career when he donated his official and personal papers to the Queens College Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library — including a handwritten note from Nancy Pelosi: “It is with great admiration and appreciation that I send you a pen that I used to sign the Health Care Reform Bill before sending it to President Obama.”

And stepping down from the top Queens political role may indicate the most definitive move in a new direction for Crowley plus, an opportunity for the other wings of the party to grasp some control. 

So where is the head of the Queens Democrats working?

A source familiar with the arrangement says Crowley’s primary residence will be in NYC and he’ll be back and forth between NY and DC.

According to a Squire Patton Boggs representative, Crowley’s office will be in DC. 

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