"It depends on what they're lobbying for," said Israel. "If they're lobbying for bridges to nowhere, which every Republican except for one just supported, then it's a problem. If they're lobbying to terminate the foreclosure assistance program for veterans and senior citizens, which every Republican just voted for, maybe that's a problem. But I don't think Democrats would be for those things."
Israel says that the "vast majority of former members" have been participating in semi-regular DCCC conference calls, but that the number of participants varies. But even as several have been taking other jobs, the interest level among those former members in the past three weeks has been at an apex.
"We've always had huge turnout in our conference calls, but now there's an uptick in the emails I'm getting, the check-ins from former members," said Israel, who partially contributed the heightened interest could be due to the recent labor battles in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
But as the first quarter of 2011 draws to a close in just a few weeks, Israel cautioned against too much tea leaf reading based on the Federal Election Committee filings of those who have kept open their campaign committees.
"Some of them are savvy enough to know that if they're out there actively fundraising and sending press releases, and if the Republicans control redistricting, they will be redistricted to another state."
Israel says there are two approaches for members toying with running again: Those with recognizable names in the district could wait until much later in the cycle because of their experience and connections. But, he added, others may continue to keep their name and face in the news to stay relevant.
"If you're a former member, you know you've got a built-in donor list. You can kind of go in under the radar, turn the key, and ignite later on without jeopardizing yourself and becoming a target. And then the other theory is that you've got to be out there, you've got to be public," Israel explained. "I subscribe more to the first theory -- particularly if you're a former member of Congress. That's a strategic benefit, I think -- having that infrastructure."
11:14 a.m. update: The National Republican Congressional Committee responds. "We would not want to stop Steve Israel from recruiting his former colleagues who imposed a job-destroying agenda that drove our country deep into debt. Voters will undoubtedly be able to relate to the hardship these defeated Democrats now face as they learn to adjust to the backbreaking life of being a K Street lobbyist fighting for liberal special interests," said NRCC spokesperson Paul Lindsay.