Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why

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During the 2008 election season, politicians from both sides of the aisle promised to rid government of lobbyists’ undue influence. For the authors of Lobbying and Policy Change, the most extensive study ever done on the topic, these promises ring hollow—not because politicians fail to keep them but because lobbies are far less influential than political rhetoric suggests.

Based on a comprehensive examination of ninety-eight issues, this volume demonstrates that sixty percent of recent lobbying campaigns failed to change policy despite millions of dollars spent trying. Why? The authors find that resources explain less than five percent of the difference between successful and unsuccessful efforts. Moreover, they show, these attempts must overcome an entrenched Washington system with a tremendous bias in favor of the status quo.

Though elected officials and existing policies carry more weight, lobbies have an impact too, and when advocates for a given issue finally succeed, policy tends to change significantly. The authors argue, however, that the lobbying community so strongly reflects elite interests that it will not fundamentally alter the balance of power unless its makeup shifts dramatically in favor of average Americans’ concerns.


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This is a necessary read for any student of lobbying and interest groups. The magnitude of this study is remarkable and its findings are difficult to argue against. It will probably become a required text for classes on interest groups and for many public policy classes. So if you are someone who is hungry for an evidenced based account of how lobbying works in Washington, then read Lobbying and Policy Change. 


Chapter 1 Advocacy Public Policy and Policy Change
Chapter 2 Incrementalism and the Status Quo
Chapter 3 Structure or Chaos?
Chapter 4 Opposition and Obstacles
Chapter 5 Partisanship and Elections
Chapter 6 Strategic Choices
Chapter 7 Arguments
Chapter 8 Tactics
The Real NoSpin Zone
Chapter 10 Does Money Buy Public Policy?
Chapter 11 Policy Outcomes
Chapter 12 Rethinking Policy Change
Methodological Appendix

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About the author (2009)

Frank R. Baumgartner is the Bruce R. Miller and Dean D. LaVigne Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. Jeffrey M. Berry is the John Richard Skuse Professor of Political Science at Tufts University. Marie Hojnacki is associate professor of political science at Penn State University. David C. Kimball is associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Beth L. Leech is associate professor of political science at Rutgers University.

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