Repeated Lobbying by Commercial Lobbyists and Special Interests

55 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2016

See all articles by Thomas Groll

Thomas Groll

Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs; Institute for Corruption Studies

Christopher J. Ellis

University of Oregon - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 17, 2016


Using a model of repeated agency, we explain previously unexplained features of the real-world lobbying industry. Lobbying is divided between direct representation by special interests to policymakers, and indirect representation where special interests employ professional intermediaries called commercial lobbyists to lobby policymakers on their behalf. Our analytical structure allows us to explain several trends in lobbying. For example, using the observation that in the U.S. over the last 20 years policymakers have spent an increasing amount of their time fundraising as opposed to legislating, we are able to explain why the share of commercial lobbyist activity in total lobbying has risen dramatically and now constitutes over 60% of the total. The key scarce resource in our analysis is policymakers’ time. They allocate this resource via implicit repeated agency contracts which are used to incent special interests and commercial lobbyists to provide a mix of financial contributions and information on policy proposals. These implicit agency contracts solve both an information problem in the presence of unverifiable policy information and a contracting problem in the absence of legal enforcement. These repeated relationship, that are often described using the pejorative term cronyism in the popular press, may in certain circumstances be welfare improving.

Keywords: lobbying, political access, intermediaries, information acquisition, financial contributions

JEL Classification: D720, D780, D830, H110, P160

Suggested Citation

Groll, Thomas and Ellis, Christopher J., Repeated Lobbying by Commercial Lobbyists and Special Interests (March 17, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5809, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Groll

Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
2128510194 (Phone)


Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

Christopher J. Ellis (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

Eugene, OR 97403
United States

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