Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Congressional and Presidential Effects on the Demand for Lobbying

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Congressional and Presidential Effects on the Demand for Lobbying

Article excerpt


The authors show that the number of lobbyists active in a given issue area is driven not only by social mobilizations and economic trends but also by government activity. The effect of government spending is smaller than that of congressional interest as reflected in the number of hearings. Much lobbying is in response to regulations, not budgets. The authors augment their analysis by considering indicators of presidential activities. In areas where the president is traditionally active, presidential activity is shown to divert lobbying away from Congress, reducing overall lobbying levels. The authors find strong support for the congressional demand model of lobbying.


interest groups, lobbying, Lobby Disclosure Act, congressional hearings

Social movements, the mobilization of professional communities associated with economic growth and diversity, and rent seeking by interest groups have long been seen as important explanations for the growth of government. Economic and social groups have mobilized in various areas of political life, leading to the creation of new government programs, services, and protections. In a recent article, Leech and several colleagues showed that the reverse is also true (Leech et al. 2005; for extensions to the state level, see Baumgartner, Gray, and Lowery, forthcoming; Gray et al. 2005; Lowery et al. 2004). As government has become involved in a wider range of activities in diverse areas of the economy, interest group mobilization has been stimulated. Groups respond to the mobilization of government, just as government responds to the mobilization of groups.

Government stimulates the growth and mobilization of interest groups not only by direct subsidy and contracts, as Walker (1983, 1991) demonstrated, but also and on a much larger scale simply by expanding its range of activities. Campbell (2005), for example, showed that the Social Security program transformed the patterns of political mobilization of the entire elderly generation, significantly increasing their interest and engagement in politics, especially among those most dependent on their Social Security income. This mobilization followed, rather than preceded, the change in government policy. The effects go far beyond direct federal spending. Much more important are regulatory activities of all kinds. These encourage some groups to mobilize to protect the government rules that help them, while other groups are mobilized to fight the level of government control in a given area. The more activity, the more groups of all kinds have reason to get involved in the policy process. Increased government activity in a broader range of economic and social sectors therefore has a stimulating, "demand" effect on the interest group community as a whole. In this article, we update and expand on the analysis conducted by Leech and colleagues (2005), confirming their results with a longer time series relating to the effects of congressional activities on group mobilization and adding a new analysis of the effects of presidential involvement in policy. The results strongly support a demand-side theory of group mobilization.

Our results show important interbranch dynamics in this process as presidential activities, measured alone, have a strong mobilizing effect on groups. However, these effects are heavily dependent on the issue domain. We distinguish between those areas where presidents have traditionally played a more important policy role and those where Congress has dominated or where powers have been more equally shared. Increased presidential actions in those domains where presidents dominate serve to depress congressional lobbying. Presidential actions in congressionally dominated domains have no effect beyond that of congressional activity.

Driving the Lobbying Community

Political observers at points throughout the twentieth century and up to the present have exclaimed over the continuing growth of the U. …

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