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Washington's revolving door


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Contributor(s): Mirko Draca

Released on 15 July 2010.

Lobbying is big business in US politics, and getting bigger. Many commentators have voiced suspicions about the ties between lobbying firms, private sector businesses, and politics. They allege that a "revolving door", which sees employees moving from public office to private companies and back again, potentially jeopardises the public interest.

Often highly paid, these lobbyists claim their salaries simply reflect their high ability, but critics complain those exiting the revolving door are attractive to lobbying firms because they can exploit their political connections.

In this film Mirko Draca explains how he and his colleagues, Christian Fons-Rosen and Jordi Blanes i Vidal, measured the extent to which former political staff who become lobbyists benefit from their ties to government.

This involves separating the issue of ability from the issue of political connections. Fortunately, the political system contains conditions for testing this: periodic elections mean that political contacts are vulnerable. By looking at what happens to a lobbyist's earnings when their former employer leaves political office, Draca and his colleagues have been able to measure the value of being politically well connected.

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