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Lobbying as Legislative Subsidy


Professional lobbyists are among the most experienced, knowledgeable, and strategic actors one can find in the everyday practice of politics. Nonetheless, their behavioral patterns often appear anomalous when viewed in the light of existing theories. We revisit these anomalies in search of an alternative theory. We model lobbying not as exchange (vote buying) or persuasion (informative signaling) but as a form of legislative subsidy—a matching grant of policy information, political intelligence, and legislative labor to the enterprises of strategically selected legislators. The proximate political objective of this strategy is not to change legislators' minds but to assist natural allies in achieving their own, coincident objectives. The theory is simple in form, realistic in its principal assumptions, and counterintuitive in its main implications. Empirically, the model renders otherwise anomalous regularities comprehensible and predictable. In a later section, we briefly bring preferences back in, examining the important but relatively uncommon conditions under which preference-centered lobbying should occur.

Corresponding author
Richard L. Hall is Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (
Alan V. Deardorff is Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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