Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 82–100 | Cite as

Who walks through the revolving door? Examining the lobbying activity of former members of Congress

  • Jeffrey LazarusEmail author
  • Amy McKay
  • Lindsey Herbel
Original Article


Government watchdog groups and the government itself have shown concern about the ‘revolving door’ of employees moving from Congress to private lobbying organizations. As of yet, the academic literature analyzing who becomes a revolving door lobbyist is small but growing. We contribute to this literature by examining which former members of Congress become lobbyists. We construct a data set of all members of Congress who left the institution between 1976 and 2012, identifying those who go on to register as lobbyists. We observe several trends. Among these: there is not a significant difference in the rates at which former House members and senators become lobbyists; institutional standing (in the form of party leadership and other such positions) has a profound effect on which former House members become lobbyists, but less so among former senators; and there is some evidence that Republican former senators are more likely to become lobbyists than Democratic former senators, but this party difference is virtually absent among former House members.


Congress lobbyists revolving door interest groups 


  1. Baumgartner, F.R., Berry, J.M., Hojnacki, M., Kimball, D.C. and Leech, B.L. (2009) Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bertrand, M., Bombardini, M. and Trebbi, F. (2011) Is It Whom You Know or What You Know? An Empirical Assessment of the Lobbying Process. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 16765, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  3. Binder, S.A. and Smith, S.S. (2001) Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate. Washington DC: Brookings Institute Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cain, B.E. and Drutman, L. (2014) Congressional staff and the revolving door: The impact of regulatory change. Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 13 (1): 27–44.Google Scholar
  5. Center for Responsive Politics. (2014) Revolving door,, accessed 1 June 2014.
  6. Cohen, J.E. (1986) The Dynamics of the ‘revolving door’ at the FCC. American Journal of Political Science 30 (4): 689–708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cox, G.W. and McCubbins, M.D. (1993) Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House. Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ferejohn, J.A. (1974) Pork Barrel Politics: Rivers and Harbors Legislation 1947-1968. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Fenno, R. (1973) Congressmen in Committees. Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Foreign Agents Registration Act. (1938) 22 U.S.C. Section 611 et seq.Google Scholar
  11. Gormley, Jr W.T. (1979) A test of the revolving door hypothesis at the FCC. American Journal of Political Science 23 (4): 665–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heinz, J.P., Laumann, E.O., Nelson, R.L. and Salisbury, R.H. (1997) The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policymaking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Holman, C. (2007) Testimony of Craig Holman, Legislative Representative, Public Citizen. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 13 February, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  14. Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. (2007) Public Law 110–81.Google Scholar
  15. Jacobson, G.C. (2012) The Politics of Congressional Elections, 8th ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  16. Koger, G. (2010) Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kousser, T., Lewis, J. and Masket, S. (2007) Ideological adaptation? The survival instinct of threatened legislators. Journal of Politics 69 (3): 828–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. LaPira, T. and Thomas, III. H.F. (2014) Revolving door lobbyists and interest representation. Interest Groups and Advocacy 3 (1): 4–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lazarus, J. and McKay, A. (2012) Consequences of the Revolving Door: Evaluating the Lobbying Success of Former Congressional Members and the Staff. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  20. Leech, B. (2013) Lobbyists at Work. New York: Apress.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lobbying Disclosure Act (1995) 2 U.S.C., Section 1605.Google Scholar
  22. Poole, K. and Rosenthal, H. (2000) Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rohde, D.W. (1991) Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rothenberg, L. and Sanders, M.S. (2000) Severing the electoral connection: shirking in the contemporary Congress. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2): 310–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Salisbury, R.H., Johnson, P., Heinz, J.P., Laumann, E.O. and Nelson, R.L. (1989) Who you know versus what you know: The uses of government experience for washington lobbyists. American Journal of Political Science 33 (1): 175–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Savage, J.D. (1991) Saints and cardinals in appropriations committees and the fight against distributive politics. Legislative Studies Quarterly 16 (3): 329–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Senate Office of Public Records (2013) Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance,, accessed 1 June 2014.
  28. Shepsle, K. and Weingast, B. (1987) The institutional foundations of committee power. American Political Science Review. 81 (1): 85–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Smith, S.S. (2014) The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern U.S. Senate. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  30. Vidal, J.B.I., Draca, M. and Fons-Rosen, C. (2012) Revolving door lobbyists. The American Economic Review 102 (7): 3731–3748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.University of ExeterExeterUK

Personalised recommendations