Does the Congressional Revolving Foor Feed a Lobbying Black Market?
Engler, Alex C.
Lobbying is an activity with tremendous influence on the function of the federal government; however, it is only understood and studied through the limited lens of registered lobbyists. This thesis takes a more holistic look at the political influence efforts of private firms by studying the revolving door of senior congressional staffers not only to registered lobbying positions but also to unregistered political influence positions at for-profit enterprises. The unique dataset used in this analysis demonstrates that over half of all senior congressional staffers take private political influence positions when they leave Congress.In addition, it was theorized that unregistered political influence positions are very similar in function to registered lobbying positions, and that the choice to not register is based on legal, political, and administrative disincentives. There have been notable instances where high profile political actors have been accused of acting as lobbyists without registration. Stable lobbying revenue and falling lobbying registration also suggests that fewer members of the political influence industry are disclosing their activities. This hypothesis—that there is a “black market” of unregistered lobbyists—has not previously been tested in academic research. Multinomial logit regressions show that the characteristics of senior congressional staff do have statistically significant effects on their next job. I find that the characteristics of staffers who take unregistered political influence jobs are substantially different from those who take registered lobbying jobs. This implies that the nature of these unregistered positions differs significantly from registered lobbyists and perhaps there is no black market for unregistered lobbyists at all.
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