February 20, 2014

Palantir Hires Former Congressman to Oversee D.C. Operations, Doesn’t Register Him as a Lobbyist

WAMP“The air is fresher outside of Washington,” said Zach Wamp, a Republican politician after he left his seat in Congress. Wamp told reporters that he would not pursue a career in lobbying. Instead, he founded a firm that he said would focus on “business development” in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

But like many other former officials, leaving Washington was easier said than done. In a new investigative piece for The Nation magazine published this morning, I explain how Wamp and many others have engaged in what appears to be lobbying activity without registering as lobbyists. Thousands of individuals in the so-called influence industry have refused to register, leaving the public in the dark about how policy is shaped.

We learned of Wamp’s Washington-work by chance. On a trip to the district to cover the government shut down last year, we encountered Wamp telling current members of Congress on Capitol Hill that he manages operations for Palantir, a controversial Big Data company that does work for intelligence agencies. “I’m kind of overseeing their operations up here,” Wamp said when I asked what he does for Palantir. He ended the conversation abruptly when questioned about the scandals associated with the firm, which include allegations of spying on activists and other privacy violations. Palantir’s counsel refused to comment on what Wamp does precisely for the company.

Watch the exchange below: