Bart Gordon, the former chair of the science committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, has joined one of Washington's biggest law and lobbying firms.
On Monday, the Tennessee Democrat began working on clean energy, nanotechnology, and innovation issues as a partner for K&L Gates. A lawyer who retired in January after 26 years in Congress, the 62-year-old Gordon joins a firm with 1900 lawyers on three continents. "They have an excellent platform" to tackle these issues, says Gordon about a public policy shop that features Republican heavyweights such as former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), former Representative Jim Walsh (R-NY), and former Pennsylvania Republican governor and attorney general Richard Thornburgh.
"We have to stop the fighting over climate change and move to clean energy," says Gordon, who as a legislator was a major advocate for increasing the science budget of the Department of Energy. "It's a jobs issue, and it's also a question of keeping up with our global competitors." He predicts that the current problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan will lead to a "time out" for nuclear power in the United States but says that "we can't walk away" from a sector that represents 20% of the U.S. energy portfolio. Gordon says he will also continue to be an advocate for improving science and engineering education because of the importance of a well-trained workforce.
Although the current Congress has sworn off earmarking, the firm's Web site boasts of having won nearly a half-billion dollars in earmarked federal funding for clients in a recent 3-year period. That attitude may require some adjustment in thinking for Gordon, who as head of a congressional authorizing committee argued strongly that research agencies spend their funds as a result of peer review rather than via legislative fiat.