Wynn to leave Congress in June

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Albert R. Wynn of Maryland, a veteran Democrat who lost a primary last month, said yesterday that he plans to resign from Congress in June to join a high-profile Washington law firm with an active lobbying practice.

Wynn will join the growing number of politicians moving through the revolving door between Congress and lucrative careers influencing the decisions of former colleagues.

Wynn, 56, lost his re-election bid to Donna Edwards, a party activist and outspoken critic of the Iraq War. The heavily Democratic district he represents contains portions of Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Edwards came close to defeating Wynn two years ago and bested him in a rematch last month by portraying him as too closely aligned with business interests and the Bush administration.

In a statement, Wynn said that it was a "great honor" to have served the 4th District but said that "it is time to move into another phase of my life."

Under Maryland law, Gov. Martin O'Malley must decide within 10 days of Wynn's resignation whether to call for a special election or to allow the position to remain vacant until a replacement is chosen in November's regularly scheduled general election.

"It just happened so quickly we haven't had time to run the constitutional traps on that one," the governor said yesterday.

Wynn indicated that he preferred a special election, saying that an Edwards victory would "not only give her seniority in the incoming congressional class of '09, but more importantly, will allow her to get off to a fast start in serving the citizens of our community."

Such an election would cost Montgomery and Prince George's counties roughly $1.5 million to $2 million, state elections officials said, with additional expenses borne by the state.

Wynn will become a partner with Dickstein Shapiro LLP. Wynn attended Georgetown Law School with the firm's chairman, Michael Nannes. The firm has five former members of Congress among its 400-plus attorneys, including former Democratic Sen. Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland.

The congressman will join the firm's public policy and law practice, whose head, Andrew Zausner, said that the hiring decision was "as close to a no-brainer as you can get."

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on which Wynn has served "has expansive jurisdiction, and I would expect that at least initially those are the areas he has the most experience in and the most to offer," Zausner said.

Federal law contains a so-called "cooling-off period" for former House members, prohibiting them from direct contact with elected representatives for a year. By not serving out his full term and resigning in June, Wynn will shave six months from the prohibition.

Still, the law allows former House members to participate in strategy sessions and share knowledge of issues during the one-year period.

"The upshot is that Wynn will be able to do behind-the-scenes lobbying work," said Tara Malloy, associate counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group focusing on campaign finance and government ethics.

Edwards said in a statement that she appreciated Wynn's years of service and "his willingness to work together to ensure a seamless, smooth transition of representation" for constituents in the district.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic leader from Southern Maryland, praised Wynn's work on economic development and transportation that "helped solidify the position of Prince George's and Montgomery counties as highly attractive places to live and work within the region."

Wynn's decision hastens the end - at least temporarily - of a once-promising political career. Wynn had long been considered among the most powerful politicians in Prince George's, the state's second-largest jurisdiction, and his name frequently circulated as a potential candidate for Senate.

By joining a firm that engages in lobbying, he takes part in a growing trend. Former Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, resigned late last year amid speculation that he would join a lobbying practice. Also, Rep. Richard H. Baker, a Louisiana Republican, stepped down last month to lobby for the hedge fund industry.

david.nitkin@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.

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