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Published May 6, 2019 | Updated + Submitted
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Lobbyists as Gatekeepers: Theory and Evidence


Lobbyists are omnipresent in the policymaking process, but the value that they bring to both clients and politicians remains poorly understood. We develop a model in which a lobbyist's value derives from his ability to selectively screen which clients he brings to a politician, thereby earning the politician's trust and preferential treatment for his clients. Lobbyists face a dilemma, as their ability to screen also increases their value to special interests, and the prices they can charge. A lobbyist's profit motive undermines his ability to solve this dilemma, but an interest in policy outcomes—due either to a political ideology or a personal connection—enhances it, which paradoxically increases his profits. Using a unique dataset from reports mandated by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, we find that lobbyists become more selective when they are more ideologically aligned with politicians, consistent with our prediction.

Additional Information

We are thankful for suggestions and comments from Gleason Judd, Sergio Montero, and participants at Lobbying and Institutional Performance Conference at Princeton, and Conference in Applied Methods for Political Science at the University of Rochester.

Attached Files

Submitted - HirschMon-LobbyistsDilemma-Wallis.pdf

Updated - LAG_Combined-Draft_20210212_POST.pdf


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