Exit Strategy: Career Concerns and Revolving Doors in Congress

Exit Strategy: Career Concerns and Revolving Doors in Congress

By Michael E. Shepherd, Vanderbilt University and Hye Young You, New York University

Although the majority of research on revolving-door lobbyists centers on the influence they exercise during their post-government careers, relatively little attention is given to whether future career concerns affect the behaviors of revolving-door lobbyists while they still work in government. We argue that the revolving-door incentivizes congressional staffers to showcase their legislative skills to the lobbying market in ways that affect policymaking in Congress. Using comprehensive data on congressional staffers, we find that employing staffers who later become lobbyists is associated with higher legislative productivity for members of Congress, especially in staffers’ final terms in Congress. It also is associated with increases in a member’s bill sponsorship in the areas of health and commerce, the topics most frequently addressed by clients in the lobbying industry, as well as granting more access to lobbying firms. These results provide the systematic empirical evidence of pre-exit effects of the revolving-door among congressional staff.