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The revolving door in one graph


What you're seeing is the drop in revenue for a staffer-turned-lobbyist when their former boss leaves politics. It's from this paper (pdf) by Jordi Blanes i Vidal, Mirko Draca and Christian Fons-Rosen. Here's the abstract:

Washington's 'revolving door' - the movement from government service into the lobbying industry- is regarded as a major concern for policy-making. We study how ex-government staffers benefit from the personal connections acquired during their public service. Lobbyists with experience in the office of a US Senator suffer a 24% drop in generated revenue when that Senator leaves office. The effect is immediate, discontinuous around the exit period and long-lasting. Consistent with the notion that lobbyists sell access to powerful politicians, the drop in revenue is increasing in the seniority of and committee assignments power held by the exiting politician.

This gets to a point I've made before, which is that we tend to focus on the money in lobbying, but it's the connections that matter more. So I'll take the opportunity to repost this incredible graphic The Washington Post produced showing how lobbying firms prepared for health-care reform by hiring dozens of people who'd formerly worked for the relevant committees and senators. Click on it for a larger version.


By Ezra Klein  | September 24, 2010; 10:02 AM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Next: There's no such thing as easy spending cuts


Oooooh, you're getting tantalizingly close. Now, let's take the next step: what conclusions do you draw from these graphs about the size and intrusiveness of government?

Posted by: ostap666 | September 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"what conclusions do you draw from these graphs about the size and intrusiveness of government?"


What conclusions do you draw from these graphs about the size and intrusiveness of corporate lobbies?

Government isn't going away - even the wackiest rightmost extremest would have to acknowledge this. A fair and democratic gov't must be disconnected from the disproportionately influential special interest groups.

Posted by: trevindor | September 24, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

ostap666, that there may be problems, even corruption, in government does not in and of itself proved that there's a big problem with big government. That there's a steroid problem in various sports doesn't mean we should have fewer teams.

Posted by: MosBen | September 24, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

In the 90's I worked as a temp for a very big company that makes lots of household products. I prepared backgrounds on all the congress people that were going to be attending a given fund raising event. There were probably 10+ people that worked in that group dedicated to lobbying. And we were the internal group -- not the external professionals.

Lobbying is not just buying people dinner and asking them to vote your way. It is highly coordinated campaign where you try to understand the process of legislation, and affect it 5-7 years out (think tanks), 3-5 years out (action groups), 1-2 years out (legislative level) and of course during the writing and voting on bills.
If you don't think these are very coordinated campaign where all the players are laid out and people are assigned to understand how to affect them, you are underestimating how it works. And the companies who do it consider it an excellent investment. Which it is.

And that was >10 years ago. I'm sure they're much better at it now, like everything else.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | September 24, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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