Congressional Analytic Capacity, Party Polarization, and the Political Economy of Revolving Door Lobbying
33 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2016
Date Written: August 9, 2016
We argue that the market for lobbying services is a function of two key features of modern American politics: (1) the decline in Congress’s analytic capacity and (2) the concentration of agenda setting powers to party leaders that has come with increased polarization in government. These trends have made the legislative process much more uncertain to external stakeholders. As a result, revolving door lobbyists’ strategic political process knowledge has increased their value relative to substantive, policy-oriented lobbyists. In a departure from previous work, our model does not rely on the assumption that revolving door lobbyists sell “access” to specific policymakers. Rather, revolving door lobbyists offer organized interests a form of political insurance against the perceived risk of chaotic, unpredictable government action (or inaction). We draw on our original data set of the career histories of more than 630 contract lobbyists. We find that revolving door lobbyists generate at least twice the revenue per year than those without government experience, especially with more senior positions Capitol Hill. These findings have important consequences for political reform: efforts to minimize the influence of lobbyists and special interests need to first look at how Congress itself has created a system that rewards those who spin through the revolving door.
Keywords: lobbying, revolving door, political economy
JEL Classification: D72, D78
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation