Category Archives: Lobbying

The Returns to Lobbying: Evidence from Local Governments in the “Age of Earmarks”

Source: Steven Gordon, Public Finance Review, OnlineFirst, Published July 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
I measure the returns to lobbying for US local governments in terms of federal earmarks. Because a local government’s decision to lobby may be endogenous to receiving an earmark, I instrument for lobbying with local housing prices. Since the time period of my analysis covers the Housing Crisis, I argue that the variation in housing prices over this time was largely exogenous to federal earmark distributions. The strong correlation that I find between housing price growth rates and lobbying provides evidence that local governments lobbied to buffer against impending property tax losses. I find no evidence that lobbying is associated with increased earmark awards overall. However, conditional on selection into receiving an earmark, I do find evidence that lobbying served to increase the size of earmark awards.

Fundraising for Favors? Linking Lobbyist-Hosted Fundraisers to Legislative Benefits

Source: Amy Melissa McKay, Political Research Quarterly, Online First, April 24, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do legislators and lobbyists trade favors? This study uses uncommon data sources and plagiarism software to detect a rarely observed relationship between interest group lobbyists and sitting Members of Congress. Comparison of letters to a Senate committee written by lobby groups to legislative amendments introduced by committee members reveals similar and even identical language, providing compelling evidence that groups persuaded legislators to introduce amendments valued by the group. Moreover, the analysis suggests that these language matches are more likely when the requesting lobby group hosts a fundraising event for the senator. The results hold while controlling for ideological agreement between the senator and the group, the group’s campaign contributions to the senator, and the group’s lobbying expenditures, annual revenue, and home-state connections.

Brass Parachutes: Defense Contractors’ Capture of Pentagon Officials Through the Revolving Door

Source: Mandy Smithberger, Project On Government Oversight, 2018

A POGO investigation found that from 2008 to the present over 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors within two years of leaving the Department.

Major Findings
– There were 645 instances of the top 20 defense contractors in fiscal year 2016 hiring former senior government officials, military officers, Members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 (see chart below). Since some lobbyists work for multiple defense contractors, there are more instances than officials.
– Of those instances, nearly 90 percent became registered lobbyists, where the operational skill is influence-peddling.
– At least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.
– Of the Department of Defense officials POGO tracked through the revolving door, a quarter of them (95) went to work at the Department of Defense’s top 5 contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman).
– Military officers going through the revolving door included 25 Generals, 9 Admirals, 43 Lieutenant Generals, and 23 Vice Admirals.

Related:
Pentagon Revolving Door Database

Countries Hosting Trump Businesses Have Added Lobbyists at Rapid Pace Since Inauguration

Source: Frank Bass, MapLight, July 6, 2018

More than one-third of lobbyists who have registered as foreign agents with the Justice Department since President Donald Trump took office are representing countries with Trump-related business interests, according to a MapLight review.

More than 400 lobbyists have registered to represent foreign interests in the 16 months since Trump took office. Records show 142 new foreign agents are working for 20 countries where Trump has business interests, including Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Qatar. By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department recorded 238 new foreign lobbyists during his first 16 months in office. There were 223 registrations reported during the same period under former President George W. Bush….

Democratic Representation: Americans’ Frustration with Whose Voices are Represented in Congress

Source: Trevor Tompson, Jennifer Benz, David Sterrett, Dan Malato, Emily Swanson, Bo MacInnis, Jon Krosnick, Sarah Anderson, Stanford University and the University of California – Santa Barbara in collaboration with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 2018

With Americans’ disapproval of Congress reaching record levels in recent years, the strength of the country’s legislative system and America’s faith in its outcomes have come into question. This study reveals a new explanation for Americans’ dissatisfaction with their elected representatives by showing that people’s approval of Congress is tied to their beliefs about how lawmakers are making decisions.

The study—conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, in collaboration with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—shows that negative attitudes toward Congress relate to the gap between who people think members of Congress should pay attention to when voting on a law and who people think they do pay attention to when voting. The phenomenon cuts across partisan lines, and these perceptions of the decision-making process affect both Democrats’ and Republicans’ approval of Congress.

Related:
Technical report

Survey: Americans think lawmakers ignore public opinion
Source: Melissa De Witte, Futurity, February 28, 2018

Members of Congress respond to more than money – sometimes

Source: Jan Leighley, Jennifer Oser, The Conversation, February 9, 2018

Does citizen activism really affect the actions of elected officials?

Despite the ubiquitous role of money in campaigns, elections and policymaking, some citizens clearly still believe in the power of protest.

In the month of December 2017 alone, an organization called The Crowd Counting Consortiumtallied 796 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies,” some of them featuring thousands of people, across the country. Over the past year, the offices of many members of Congress and other elected officials have been jammed with constituents voicing their opinions on the Affordable Care Act, the immigration program called DACA, abortion and sexual harassment, among others.

But does all of this sign waving and sitting in actually influence elected officials?

As social scientists, we have long been interested in political participation and online activism. We used this knowledge to design a study that looks at whether activism changes the votes of elected officials – and whether the effect is strong enough to mitigate the power of donated money.

What we found is that citizens can make their voices heard – at least some of the time….

As Conservative Group Grows In Influence, Financial Dealings Enrich Its Leaders

Source: Mick Dumke and Tina Sfondeles, ProPublica and Chicago Sun-Times, February 8, 2018

Illinois Policy Institute has called for government reform while channeling money to firms owned by insiders. ….

…. Through an often-dizzying series of transactions, Tillman and his associates have moved millions of dollars around five interconnected nonprofits they run, steering money to for-profit ventures in which they have a stake.

For example, in addition to his role as chief executive officer at the institute, Tillman is the board chairman and former president of Think Freely Media, another small-government nonprofit that once shared office space with the institute and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from it in grant money. ….

…..Tax records show that a handful of conservative, wealthy benefactors were key to the growth of the Illinois Policy Institute and its partner organizations.

Among them:
• The Rauner Family Foundation, created and led by Bruce Rauner, then the leader of a private equity firm. The Rauner foundation donated $625,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute between 2009 and 2013.
• A family foundation headed by Richard Uihlein, the leader of a packaging company who lives in Lake Forest. The Uihlein foundation has given $8.6 million to the institute since 2009 and another $2.4 million to the Liberty Justice Center and Think Freely Media.
• The Mercer Family Foundation, which has contributed $1.1 million since 2009. The family has been a major financial backer of President Donald Trump and, until a recent falling out, the far-right Breitbart website.
• Donors Trust, which distributes money to conservative groups around the country, including those led and funded by the industrialist Koch brothers. Donors Trust gave the institute and Think Freely Media $1.4 million from 2009 to 2015……

MapLight – Data

Source: Maplight.org, 2017

MapLight tracks several data sets that you can search for evidence of money’s influence on politics.

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
Top contributions from major donors to congressional politicians.

CONGRESSIONAL BILLS
Bills paired with contributions, positions taken by special interests, and vote results.

LEGISLATORS
Profiles of elected officials with campaign finance statistics.

LOBBYING
See how much money companies and interest groups spend trying to influence lawmakers.

BULK DATA SETS + APIS
Use MapLight’s data for your own research or software project.

Facebook’s new ‘Town Hall’ feature helps you find and contact your government reps

Source: Sarah Perez, TechCrunch, March 14, 2017

In Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s nearly 6,000-word manifesto published last month, he laid out a number of global ambitions he had for the social network in the days ahead — including one where its users became more “civically-engaged” and voted more often. Now it seems Facebook has taken its first steps toward making that possible, through a new feature it’s calling “Town Hall.”

This latest addition has just popped up on the “More” menu in Facebook’s mobile app, and offers a simple way for users to find and connect with their government representatives on a local, state and federal level…..