Roskam on being in the private sector: 'The season for me in public life, I think, has come to a close'

In his old job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 6th Congressional District, Republican Peter Roskam worked on health care, trade and tax matters.

In his new job as a partner in the Government Strategies group at the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, Roskam says he'll again work on health care, trade and tax matters - just from a different perspective.

Roskam, of Wheaton, has stepped out of public life for now after 25 years in elected office - and says he has no plans to return. He lost his re-election bid for a seventh term in the House last fall when freshman Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove defeated him by claiming 53% of the vote in what traditionally had been a strongly Republican district.

Last week, Roskam joined Sidley Austin, where he will work in Chicago and Washington with clients in a variety of industries who need guidance and foresight about legislative and regulatory trends.

It's a return to a role as a lawyer for a man who once worked as a civil litigator.

"What I'm doing now is taking 25 years of background in legislative and regulatory matters and translating that for Sidley clients who are facing, like everyone, an increasingly complicated world in Washington and trying to navigate through that," Roskam said Tuesday. "It's a good fit for me with Sidley Austin because of the background I've had in public life and the needs of Sidley clients. I think we've found a good combination."

His work with local, national or global companies for whom he'll consult will focus not only on the immediate problems they face, he said, but on the "next 'next' thing."

"What is it that regulators are looking at and where are the pressures on regulators having an impact on how they're enforcing various matters?" Roskam said. "It's trying to think strategically and offer that counsel and that guidance."

Roskam decided to take a step away from elected positions after his 2018 loss, saying he "thoroughly enjoyed" his time in the Illinois General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. He's taking a "never say never" approach to potentially seeking an elected position again after years of building relationships in the political realm, but he said he's happy with the work he's found with Sidley Austin.

"There's a season to things. The season for me in public life, I think, has come to a close," Roskam said. "I'm now interested in taking those relationships and taking that knowledge and taking that background and translating that into advocacy."

In Congress, Roskam was one of the chief architects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, while he served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on tax policy. He also served as chief deputy whip and as chairman of Ways and Means subcommittees on health and oversight.

In his wake, Republicans Jeanne Ives and Evelyn Sanguinetti, both of Wheaton, are running for the 6th District seat in what's expected to be a hotly contested GOP primary for the chance to face Casten. Roskam said he's pleased to support Ives, offering her an endorsement from him and his wife, Elizabeth.

Roskam said he anticipates Republicans will have a strong year in 2020 with the return of a presidential election to bring out voters.

As for President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, however, Roskam said only voters can decide his fate. It's too early to make predictions, he said, at a time when underlying political assumptions are changing across the country.

No matter who wins in the 6th District or the nation, Roskam said his focus will be on helping his clients make sense of the political landscape.

"I've always enjoyed being an advocate," he said.

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