Does Lobbying Affect Bill Advancement? Evidence from Three State Legislatures

AuthorDaniel M. Butler,David R. Miller
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
© 2021 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211012481
Whether organized interests’ lobbying efforts affect pol-
icy outcomes is a contested issue.1 Some studies of lob-
bying and policymaking provide evidence that lobbying
influences political actors’ behavior (Bergan 2009; Hall
and Miler 2008) and final policy outcomes (Anzia and
Moe 2015; Grasse and Heidbreder 2011; Grossmann and
Pyle 2013). Because some constituencies in the popula-
tion, such as businesses and the upper class, are better
represented by organized interests, some scholars con-
clude that lobbying leads to outcomes that favor those
privileged constituencies (Gilens and Page 2014;
Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012). Furthermore,
because lobbying is thought to reinforce the status quo in
public policy, (Baumgartner et al. 2009), the efficacy of
lobbying may empower the privileged to block policy
changes favored by the public at large (Gerber 1999;
Gray et al. 2010). However, other studies suggest that
lobbying has a limited effect on political officials’ actions
(Wawro 2001) and government outputs (Baumgartner
et al. 2009; Lewis 2013), thus tempering the normative
concerns expressed about lobbying’s pernicious effects
(Bashir 2015; Enns 2015). Given these conflicting con-
clusions concerning the effectiveness of lobbying, it is
difficult for scholars and practitioners to substantiate
claims about its normative consequences and offer reform
proposals that improve the responsiveness of government
to the polity at large.
One challenge to understanding whether and how lob-
bying influences policy outcomes is data scarcity about
the positions that organized interests take on bills (Anzia
2019; Leech 2010). While scholars can sometimes com-
pile this information for a subset of bills, they rarely ana-
lyze the full set of bills considered before a legislature.
Consequently, scholars “often focus only on issues that
reach the end stages of the policy process or that are well
published” because data is more accessible for these
issues, making it difficult to draw generalizations because
these issues “simply are not representative of what typi-
cally occurs” (Baumgartner et al. 2009, 2).
We offer new insights into the relationship between
lobbying and policymaking by using lobbying disclosure
data from three U.S. states that provide information not
available for commonly studied institutions, such as
Congress (Anzia 2019). Specifically, Colorado, Nebraska,
and Wisconsin require organized interests to report the
bills on which they lobby and the positions they take on
those bills, allowing us to examine the relationship
1012481PRQXXX10.1177/10659129211012481Political Research QuarterlyButler and Miller
1University of California San Diego, USA
2Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
Corresponding Author:
Daniel M. Butler, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman
Drive, San Diego, CA 92093, USA.
Does Lobbying Affect Bill Advancement?
Evidence from Three State Legislatures
Daniel M. Butler1 and David R. Miller2
Many studies consider the effect of lobbying on the behavior of individual legislators, but few studies demonstrate a
relationship between lobbying and the ultimate dispositions of bills by the legislature. One challenge to establishing
this latter relationship is data scarcity, as few legislatures systematically collect and publish information on organized
interests’ lobbying activities on each bill. We provide new insights on lobbying by using data from Colorado, Nebraska,
and Wisconsin that records the positions organized interests take on proposals in those states’ legislatures. We find
that organized interests’ lobbying predicts outcomes, especially when lobbying is directed against a proposal. We also
use our data to test whether lobbying succeeds by building support among legislators (i.e., vote buying) or by affecting
a proposal’s advancement through the legislative process (i.e., agenda control). We find that lobbying does not buy the
votes of legislators on the committees of jurisdiction for each bill, but lobbying does strongly predict what bills make
it onto the agenda. Our findings contribute to ongoing discussions about money and politics, bias in representation,
and legislator behavior.
lobbying, agenda control, state legislatures, vote buying
2022, Vol. 75(3) 547–561

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