Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 199–214 | Cite as

How many lobbyists are in Washington? Shadow lobbying and the gray market for policy advocacy

  • Herschel F. Thomas
  • Timothy M. LaPira
Original Article


How many lobbyists are in Washington, and how common is it for them to have worked in the federal government? We assume that high-profile cases like former Senator Tom Daschle—the namesake of the so-called Daschle loophole to the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) in the USA—are not isolated. In this article, we systematically account for lobbying and policy advocacy in as large an empirical scope as possible to uncover the presence of ‘shadow lobbyists.’ Using a new data set of professional biographies of both registered lobbyists and unregistered policy advocates, we estimate that there are an equal number of paid professionals in a gray market for lobbying services. We also find that registered lobbyists are more likely to have previously worked in government and are more likely to specialize in legislative advocacy. Since policymaking at the American national level has increasingly shifted to federal agencies and to the states, our results indicate that the LDA and similar lobbying regulations may be becoming increasingly obsolete. The evidence we present indicates a growing divide between transparency laws and recent changes in the marketplace for policy advocacy.


Lobbying Disclosure Act Lobbying Policy advocacy Shadow lobbyists Revolving door Political reform 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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