Foreign Influence in US Politics
79 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2022 Last revised: 26 Sep 2023
Date Written: September 25, 2023
This paper documents that foreign lobbying influences US government spending. We introduce a comprehensive dataset of over 230,000 date-stamped, in-person meetings between agents representing foreign governments and individual US legislators, state governors, and employees of US executive agencies from 2000 to 2018. The data suggest that foreign agents meet disproportionately with individuals important for foreign aid and corporate subsidies, like legislators sitting on powerful congressional committees. Foreign agents also maintain connections with legislators even after they depart powerful committees, providing evidence that meetings do not just reflect short-term quid-pro-quo arrangements. Around meetings, foreign countries receive greater amounts of financial aid. Foreign firms whose governments lobby more often also receive larger corporate subsidies from areas the legislators and governors that they meet with represent. Finally, legislators who meet more often with foreign agents receive both monetary and electoral benefits, while we do not find changes in the political contributions they receive or in their probability of re-election, suggesting that legislators are not punished by their constituents for meeting with representatives of foreign countries.
Keywords: Political economy, public finance, political connections, subsidies, foreign lobbying
JEL Classification: D72, H25, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation