All told, 17 of 24 former Bush Cabinet members have taken positions with at least 119 companies, including 65 firms that lobby the government and 40 that lobby the agencies they headed, a liberal-leaning watchdog group said in a report this week.

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WASHINGTON — Shortly after leaving his job as U.S. energy secretary in early 2005, Spencer Abraham took a $60,000-a-year post as a director of Occidental Petroleum, which soon became the first firm in 20 years to ship oil to the United States from Libya.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge accepted director’s fees and consulting work from several firms seeking contracts with his old agency.

Tommy Thompson, the former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has consulted, lobbied or worked for 42 companies since leaving office in January 2005.

All told, 17 of 24 former Bush Cabinet members have taken positions with at least 119 companies, including 65 firms that lobby the government and 40 that lobby the agencies they headed, a liberal-leaning watchdog group said in a report this week.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the group’s six-month investigation “has shown that most of these former Bush administration officials have cannily leveraged their time spent in the public sector” and “made a mint on the backs of American taxpayers.”

“It may be legal, but it is certainly not honorable,” she said.

The White House and aides to several of the former Cabinet secretaries offered no immediate comment.

Washington’s revolving door isn’t a new phenomenon.

Former senior executive-branch officials from past administrations and members of Congress from both parties have traded on their connections to assist private businesses in droves.

CREW’s report, the most detailed to date about senior Bush administration officials, suggests rhetoric about government ethics hasn’t altered the pattern. It comes as President-elect Obama has promised to take a tough stand on ethics even as he deals with the challenge of tapping top talent for short-term public service.

The report said a number of the former officers had spurned direct lobbying themselves, avoiding unseemly appearances and complying with one-year prohibitions on lobbying their former agencies by serving as strategic corporate advisers.

Occidental hadn’t registered to lobby the Department of Energy for 2-½ years but resumed after Abraham joined its board, CREW found. Before oil shipments from Libya were approved, the onetime terrorist nation hired a former Abraham deputy as its energy lobbyist.

Months later, Abraham formed the Abraham Group. He didn’t lobby himself, but his group has advised at least four energy companies, helping Houston-based Cheniere Energy win federal approval to build a liquefied natural-gas (LNG) facility in Texas. Since September 2007, the group has offered consulting services to U.S. companies that operate in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, a leading LNG producer.

Ridge, who oversaw the formation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003, joined the board of Savi Technology soon after leaving the department in February 2005. The firm makes radio-frequency-identification equipment the department had promoted during his tenure. Ridge also joined the energy utility Exelon and telecom company Lucent, both of which continued to seek Homeland Security business.

In late 2007, Ridge formed Ridge Global, hiring top former White House and Homeland Security counterterrorism officials and peddling their expertise in security and crisis management.

Don Weber, the founder of Logistics Health, a medical-readiness supplier, credited Thompson’s federal connections with the firm’s surge in growth to $104.8 million in U.S. contracts in 2007 from $19.9 million in 2003, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft formed a lobbying and consulting group soon after resigning in 2004, partnering with former top aide David Ayers and hiring a second former aide, Juleanna Glover Weiss. On Oct. 18, 2005, Ashcroft became the first former Bush Cabinet officer — and apparently the first former attorney general — to register as a lobbyist.

The Ashcroft Group’s Web site boasts of involvement in $43 billion of acquisition, antitrust and investment transactions. After hiring the Ashcroft group, Oracle, the world’s largest software-database company, won Justice Department antitrust approval for an acquisition. Ashcroft also registered to lobby for AT&T in May 2006, at a time when the phone giant was fighting for Congress to grant telecommunications companies immunity for assisting U.S. counterterrorism agencies in warrantless wiretaps. Congress voted for the immunity last year.