Out of Congress and still out of work

By: By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press Writer
By: By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - They're out of Congress and still out of work.

A handful of incumbents who lost last fall have yet to land new full-time jobs.

They include former Reps. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Thelma Drake of Virginia and Nick Lampson of Texas. There's also former New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu, whose latest Washington assignment is only part-time.

A former top Bush administration official, too, has had trouble finding work. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned under fire in September 2007.

A federal prosecutor is looking into whether Gonzales, other Bush administration officials or Republicans in Congress should face criminal charges in the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

"With respect to employment, listen, I can understand in a very tough economy, some employers are going to be very hesitant about bringing someone like me on when you have an ongoing investigation," Gonzales said in a CNN interview this month.

Shays, 63, who was New England's last Republican House member, has similarly had a rough time.

After narrowly losing his bid for an 11th term to Democrat Jim Himes in November, Shays has gotten a painful lesson in the darker side of campaign finance. He must sort out what happened to more than $190,000 he says may have been embezzled from his failed re-election bid.

Ironically, the man who crusaded on Capitol Hill for years against the corrosive influence of money in politics needs to raise cash to cover his campaign debt.

While he tackles the money mess, Shays is weighing job prospects. His one-time foe, Himes, has sought support from colleagues in urging President Barack Obama to appoint Shays to head the Peace Corps. Shays is a former Peace Corps volunteer.

"He's busy exploring and evaluating his various opportunities and determining what his next move is going to be," said Michael Fox, a Shays spokesman.

Shays has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against his former campaign manager, Michael Sohn, about the missing money. The FBI has been informed and has begun a criminal investigation, Shays' campaign said in an FEC filing. A grand jury has also been investigating. Sohn has not been charged with any wrongdoing and his lawyer has declined comment.

There were dozens of unauthorized campaign account transactions, including 29 checks totaling $83,561, more than $70,000 in unauthorized ATM withdrawals and $21,835 in debit card transactions, Shays' FEC filings show.

Former two-term Virginia congresswoman Drake, 59, is taking time off to enjoy her grandchildren before deciding her next career step. She was a real estate agent for more than 20 years.

"I am just slowing it down for a little while," she said in an e-mail. "I am catching up with friends, doing things I could never get to and I did not want to rush into the next adventure. I want to decide what that is."

Drake listed several properties worth a total between $2 million and $4.3 million on her House financial disclosure form filed last year. The forms only require that assets be reported in broad dollar ranges. Most of the properties were owned jointly with her husband and most of them had rental income, the filing shows.

The Republican, who represented Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk, Hampton and the Eastern Shore, said she won't decide about running again for a few months. Drake lost a bitter fight to Democrat Glenn Nye.

Lampson, a Texas Democrat, found himself out of work after failing to win a second term in a conservative Republican district. He won the seat after former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned. Lampson, 64, said he's been enjoying his time off "playing."

Lampson, who formed the House Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, said he's working to help form a nonprofit group that will use high-tech tools to search for missing people. Lampson made fighting crimes against children one of his legislative priorities after Laura Kate Smither, 12, of Friendswood, Texas, went missing in 1997 and was later found murdered.

"I'm trying to do something constructive, even though I don't get paid for it," said Lampson, adding that he has a few job options and will soon make a decision.

Lampson got $64,000 from a Texas County and District Retirement System pension in 2007, his House financial disclosure form shows.

Sununu, who lost his Senate seat last fall in a rematch against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, is juggling new assignments and weighing his future.

He popped up recently on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to spar over the nation's economic crisis.

He's also serving on the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a part-time post monitoring the government's bailout of financial institutions. Time Warner Cable Inc. recently announced he will be joining the company's board.

Sununu, 44, has not said whether he will run for Senate again, though many in GOP circles want him to. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has said he won't seek re-election in 2010, which would create an open seat.

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Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this story.


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