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Exit Strategy: Career Concerns and Revolving Doors in Congress



Although the majority of research on revolving-door lobbyists centers on the influence they exercise during their postgovernment 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.


Corresponding author

*Michael E. Shepherd, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, Vanderbilt University,
Hye Young You, Assistant Professor, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University,


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We are grateful for comments from Scott Ainsworth, Dan Alexander, Christina Bodea, Joshua Clinton, James Curry, Kentaro Fukumoto, Cindy Kam, Dave Lewis, Melinda Ritchie, Craig Volden, Alan Wiseman, participants at the 2017 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 2018 Asian Political Methodology Meeting, 2018 European Political Science Association Annual Meeting, and the audience members at the Columbia University American Politics Workshop, New York University Political Economy Seminar, University of California Berkeley Research Workshop on American Politics, University of California Riverside Political Economy Seminar, University of Rochester American Politics Workshop, and Conference on Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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Supplementary materials

Shepherd and You Dataset

Supplementary materials

Shepherd and You supplementary material
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Exit Strategy: Career Concerns and Revolving Doors in Congress



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