Category Archives: Lobbying

The Racial Equity Impact of Secret Political Spending by Government Contractors

Source: Naila Awan & Liz Kennedy, Dēmos, 2015

From the summary:
….Many have called for measures that would pull back the curtain on corporate political spending. Greater transparency of such spending is particularly needed with respect to government contractors, who are given taxpayer dollars to do the people’s business. These contractors often turn around and engage in political spending to influence policies that preserve their profits at the public’s expense, or affect contracting decisions. Government contractors often heavily advocate for, and profit when the federal government adopts, policies that disproportionately harm people of color and other traditionally disenfranchised populations. An executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending would help the public hold government contractors accountable for political spending that benefits their bottom lines while entrenching structural racism in our country…..

How to Email Congress and Make It Count

Source: Chris Nehls, CQ Roll Call, 2014
(subscription required)

…The sheer volume of electronic communications that most offices receive mean that congressional staff place a priority on efficiently sorting and prioritizing incoming messages. How much email does Congress get? The Senate received almost 143 million communiqués through Oct. 21 of this year, and the House received roughly the same amount through September, according to officials in both chambers. In the Senate, that’s more than eight emails for every one incoming phone call. But despite the volume, it is still possible to initiate two-way email dialog with Congressional offices, by understanding how they process communications and using a few techniques to insure you are taken seriously. While staffers rarely speak publicly about how email is parsed and addressed inside the Congress, CQ Roll Call spoke privately to sources, including those still working on Capitol Hill and former staffers, in order to compile some strategies that can help insure that your email—and your message—has a fighting chance. ….

Lobbying Behavior of Governmental Entities: Evidence from Public Pension Accounting Rules

Source: Abigail M. Allen, Reining Petacchi, Harvard Business School Accounting & Management Unit Working Paper No. 15-043, November 30, 2014

From the abstract:
We examine the lobbying behavior of state governments in the development of recently issued public pension accounting standards GASB 67 and 68. Consistent with opportunistic motivations, we find that states’ opposition to the liability increasing provisions embedded in these standards is increasing in the severity of pension plan underfunding, state budget deficits, and the use of high discount rates. Further we find opposing states are subject to more stringent balanced budget requirements and greater political pressure from unions. By contrast, we find evidence that the support from financial statement users for these provisions is amplified in states with poorly funded plans and large budget deficits, suggesting government lobbying is misaligned with a public interest perspective. We also find evidence that user support varies by type: internal users (public employees) overwhelmingly oppose the standards, relative to external users (credit analysts and the broader citizenry) but the difference is moderated in states with constitutionally protected benefits. This finding is consistent with the expectation that pension accounting reform will motivate cuts in pension benefits as opposed to increased levels of funding from the governments. Analyses of 2011 and 2012 state pension reforms confirm that states opposed to accounting reform are more likely to cut pension benefits.

Lobbying disclosures leave public in the dark /Contracts provide inside look at Washington’s influence industry

Source: Marcelo Rochabrun, Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity, August 25, 2014

….Apart from the case of Carmen and Xavier, details contained in a half-dozen other lobbying proposals and service contracts obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through state and federal court filings as well as freedom of information requests reveal exponentially more information about lobbying efforts than what’s contained in quarterly reports submitted to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House….

The Interest Group Top Tier: More Groups, Concentrated Clout

Source: Lee Drutman, Matt Grossmann, Tim LaPira, APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, 2014

From the abstract:
Recent research on influence has produced seemingly contradictory findings. On the one hand, some scholars have shown that on any given issue, economic resources show little relationship to the likelihood of policy success (Baumgartner et al. 2009). Yet, other scholars have found that policy outcomes match the preferences of the top interest groups and the well-off much better than the average citizen (Gilens 2012). This paper offers an empirical resolution to this puzzle by closely examining the advocacy activities of the top tier of interest groups in Washington. As the total population of interest organizations has increased beyond the capacity of the government to pay attention to all of them, the select few at the top — mostly business interests — have concentrated their resources toward maintaining their privileged status as major players. Using a new data set of 37,706 unique interest groups who reported lobbying between 1998 and 2012, we show that the organizations at the top in lobbying expenditures, number of lobbyists, and number of firms and staff, increasingly retain their privileged positions — but need to pay more to do so. We document lobbying activity trends for those organizations at the top of the extremely unequally distributed lobbying population. We find that organizations at the top in one year pay more to stay at the topeach successive year, even if that means shifting their issue agenda to whatever is on the minds of Congress.
How the Lobbying Top Tier explains an influence paradox
Source: Lee Drutman, Matt Grossmann, Tim LaPira, Sunlight Foundation blog, August 26, 2014

How Do Lobbyists Influence Bills in State Legislatures?

Source: Brian M. Conley, Scholars Strategy Network, Basic Facts, August 2014

Lobbyists who seek to influence the U.S. federal government and state governments have gotten a lot of attention from journalists and researchers. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2103 more than 12,000 registered lobbyists spent over three billion dollars attempting to influence the policies of the federal government; and similar efforts have been documented in the states, where both the amount and importance of lobbying has increased sharply since the late 1980s. Clearly, lobbying efforts are substantial. But too little is understood about whether – and how – lobbyist efforts pay off in actual influence over legislative outcomes. If influencing legislative policymaking is central to the task of lobbying – and if success means that one interest groups wins in competition with other groups pushing in a different direction – much uncertainty remains about the determinants of successful influence. …

Waning Influence of Lobbyists

Source:, 2014

This is a series examining the years-long decline in both spending on lobbyists and the number of active lobbyists.

Waning Influence? Part 1: Tracking the “Unlobbyist”
Source: Dan Auble,, March 18, 2014

Beginning in 2010, the Center for Responsive Politics documented a new trend in lobbying: the rise of the “unlobbyist.” The number of federally registered lobbyists who were active in a particular year began dropping in 2008 and has continued every year since. Our report last year showed that 46 percent of those who stopped lobbying in 2012 were actually still employed by the same firm. We argued that many of these ex-lobbyists simply shifted their job responsibilities slightly so as to avoid disclosure requirements and fly “under the radar.” Here, we’re extending our previous work. Through extensive research, we tracked the post-lobbying career paths of almost 1,800 registered, previously active lobbyists and found a similar pattern: Nearly half of them continued to work for the same companies — and some even still had job titles like “Director of Government Relations.” From these findings, it seems clear that lobbyists are not fleeing K Street in droves, but rather they are doing similar work for the same companies. Instead of doing it in the public eye, though, they have moved out of sight. …

Waning Influence, Part 2: Does Congressional Gridlock Lock Up K Street?
Source: Sarah Bryner,, August 18, 2014

As the total amount of money spent on lobbying continues to fall, many analysts — including the staff at the Center for Responsive Politics — cite congressional gridlock as a cause of the decline. The 113th Congress, one of the least popular in history, is known for its apparent inability to pass legislation. Given the perceived ineffectiveness of Congress, it may be no surprise that the amount spent on lobbying – which is usually undertaken to influence members of the House and Senate — has declined. While a lobbying campaign could have resulted in the passage of a bill or a helpful earmark in the past, those who pay the lobbyists’ bills may find a gridlocked Congress to be an unappealing target. When faced with decisions about how to spend limited funds, clients may not be willing to gamble on Congress to come through for them. But the notion that lobbying dollars might flow more freely when Congress is passing many bills, though plausible, is untested. In this report, the second in our series documenting the decline in lobbying, we looked at whether the data actually supports the explanation that lobbying increases when Congress is productive. The results are a decidedly mixed bag. …

Comparing the Policy Preferences of Unions & Corporations

Source: Sean McElwee, Dēmos, Policy Shop Blog, June 12, 2014

…It’s important to note that the “mass based interest groups” include groups like the National Rifle Association and American Israel Public Affairs Committee which do not share the interests of average citizens. At the same time, one corporate lobbying organization, the American Hospital Association, is actually slightly correlated with the interests of average Americans. To parse out which groups are aligned with the preferences of Americans and which are positively malign, I used data from Gilens’s book Affluence and Influence. I stuck to groups which had at least one statistically significant correlation (either positive or negative) with one group of voters (10th percentile, 50th percentile and 90th percentile). This comparison yields some interesting results. First, we can see that most unions actually take positions that strongly correlate with the preferences of all Americans, although the correlation is stronger for the lower and middle class….


Second, we can see that corporate lobbying groups do not, with one exception.

corporate lobbying groups

…To illustrate these differences, I’ve put the organizations on a scatter plot, divided into four quadrants. The y-axis shows where an organization aligns with the the top 90th percentile. The x-axis shows an organization’s correlation with the bottom 10th percentile. An organization in the upper right quadrant shares the preferences of the wealthy and the poor. An organization in the lower left does is working against the interests of Americans. Here we see that unions are all in the top right quadrant. No corporations are in the right half of the chart, indicating that none share the preferences of the poor….
scatter plot
Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
Source: Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming), March 7, 2014

How Grassroots Lobbying Consultants are Reshaping Public Participation in Policy Battles

Source: Edward Walker, Scholars Strategy Network, SSN Key Findings, May 2014

For most people, grassroots activism brings to mind voluntary efforts mounted by community organizations, social movements, and citizen leaders. But today some of the most prominent mobilizers of mass public participation are consultants selling their services to corporations, industry associations, and other clients with interests in fights over legislation, ballot measures, and rulings by public agencies. Known as “public affairs consultants” or “grassroots lobbyists,” these paid experts seek out members of the general public who can help their client to win important policy battles. My research looks closely at these influential political professionals.

The drive to ban mandated paid sick days

Source: Amy B. Dean, Al Jazeera America, May 6, 2014

Most Americans support sick days off, but corporate lobbyists are working hard to change their minds. …. Eleven states have enacted paid-sick-day pre-emption laws since 2011. New research from the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) shows that six more states are considering kill-shot bills. The NPWF has found that some of these bills have even more extreme consequences than just banning paid-sick-day requirements: They would also prohibit local governments from increasing the minimum wage, imposing stiffer penalties for wage theft and enacting laws that could help employees assert their rights on the job. (An NPWF map of these pre-emption bills and laws is here.) It’s a game of legislative one-upmanship that could have serious public health consequences…..