US Sanctions and Foreign Lobbying of the US Government

Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2023, Vol. 76(1) 444459
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129221098109
US Sanctions and Foreign Lobbying of the
US Government
Dursun Peksen
and Timothy M Peterson
Previous research has explored how US sanctions affect subsequent behavior by sanctioned states as well as third parties,
with particular attention to whether states change the policies that led to US sanctions. In this paper, we argue that US
sanctions also affect lobbying of the US government. States experiencing US sanctions over security and political issues
will lobby the US government less than other states because this scenario suggests that lobbying is unlikely to inf‌luence
US policies. States experiencing sanctions over economic issues, on the other hand, will lobby the US more as these
targets would see a negotiated settlement as more feasible. We also maintain that third-party states that are similar to US
sanction targets will lobby the US government more than dissimilar third parties, as lobbying in this scenario could be
aimed at preempting future episodes of US sanctionsregardless of the issue that led to sanctions. We f‌ind support for
our expectations in auto-regressive models spanning 19752005. Our f‌indings suggest that sanctions in some cases lead
states to f‌ind means other than policy concessions by which to satisfy US policy-makers.
sanctions, foreign lobbying, US foreign policy, coercive diplomacy
Economic sanctions have become a popular policy tool by
which the US and other major powers tackle a wide range
of issues such as military aggression, nuclear prolifera-
tion, human rights abuse, democratic backsliding, ter-
rorism, and trade disputes. Given the popularity of this
foreign policy tool, a large literature examines the ef-
fectiveness of sanctions in eliciting target compliance
(e.g., Hufbauer et al. 2007;Drury 1998;Drezner 2003).
Recent studies extend this understanding by uncovering
conditions in which sanctions also inf‌luence policy
change among third-party states that witness these signals
of sender (sanctioning state) interests and power (Peterson
2013;2014;2021;Miller 2014;Clay 2018). However,
empirical research has long focused on whether targets
(including prospective targets) comply with sender policy
preferencesas indicated by their sanction-backed
demandsas a key indicator of sanction outcomes.
Sanctions by design are examples of issue linkage in
foreign policy as the targets gains from commerce are
contingent on compliance with the policy preferences of
the coercing state (Li 1993;Lacy and Niou 2004). Yet
further issue linkage is possible if targets attempt to satisfy
sender policy-makers via actions other than objective
compliance with sender preferences on some sanction-
provoking issue.
In this paper, we consider alternate means by which
statesmight attempt to prevent or end sanctions,specif‌ically
connecting the study of US sanctions to the generally
separate body of research on foreign lobbying of the US
government.Consistent with the data used in our empirical
analysis, foreign lobbying refers to hiring of US-based
lobbyists by foreign governments to promote their inter-
ests with the executive and legislative branches of the US
government as well as the US public in general. The act of
lobbying often involves face-to-face contacts with gov-
ernment off‌icials in order to inf‌luence legislation. The US
government and other governments across the world reg-
ulate professional lobbying through laws to explicate what
is consideredlegal paid advocacyby lobby groups. They do
so to increase tran sparency and prevent politica l corruption.
University of Memphis, TN, USA
Arizona State University, Arizona, AZ
Corresponding Author:
Timothy M Peterson, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State
University, Coor Hall 6664 , Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.
We focus on sanctions by the United States because the
US occupies a unique position in the international
economy, most notably enabled by the centrality of US
dollars in international f‌inance (Farrell and Newman
2019). The US levies sanctions much more frequently
than any other country in the world, accounting for over
half of all the imposed sanctions since 1945 (Hufbauer
et al. 2007;Morgan et al. 2014). Similarly, foreign lob-
bying of the US government is an important phenomenon
on which to focus as foreign states have spent an average
of 166 million dollars yearly between 2000 and 2012 to
inf‌luence US behavior.
Given evidence that lobbying of
the US government on behalf of foreign governments is
intended to inf‌luence US foreign policy toward those
governmentsends (e.g., Lahiri and Raimondos-Møller
2000;Drope and Hansen 2004;Gawande et al. 2006;
Ehrlich 2008;Stoyanov 2009;Kim 2017;Montes-Rojas
2013;Pevehouse and Vabulas 2019), it stands to reason
that leaders might use lobbying strategically in order to
prevent or end sanctions, satisfying US policy-makers
and obtaining what we call subjective compliance
without actually changing the sanction-provoking be-
havior in question. The fungibility of lobbying dollars
renders this tool broadly appealing to governments
seeking favorable treatment on a variety of issues.
We theorize that imposed US sanctions inform target
leaders regarding their prospects of obtaining subjective
compliance via lobbying, and accordingly affect their
expenditure on lobbying of the US government. The
imposition of sanctions over major security and political
issues suggests that the room for negotiation and bar-
gaining to resolve such disputes is lowor was exhausted
prior to sanctions imposition given strategic behavior
during this period. Specif‌ically, both sender and target
states would be less willing to reach a negotiated settle-
ment or offer concessions during salient political and
security disputes. Whereas sender states would be less
receptive to lobbying, target states would be less inclined
to engage in lobbying for the removal or at least partial
relaxation of the sanctions over security and political
issues. They would instead consider that their money
would be spent better for other purposes, particularly
offsetting sanction costs. Accordingly, we expect that US
sanction targets will engage in less lobbying of the US
government relative to non-sanctioned states when
sanctions are imposed over such issues.
Trade and other economic disputes, on the other hand,
generally are considered lesser threats to national security
and thus are moreopen to bargaining and compromiseeven
after sanctions have been imposed. Because economic
disputes are considered politicallyless salient, sender states
would be more open to engagement with target states to
resolve the issue under dispute. Similarly, target states
would be willing to seek engagement with senders over
economic issues, compared to security and political dis-
putes, given such disputes are unlikely to threatennational
security and their own political survival. As such, we
expect targets to lobby for the removalor at least
easingof sanctions over economic disputes. For third-
party states witnessing US coercion, we argue that states
perceiving similarity to US sanction targets will lobby the
US government more than third parties lacking this rec-
ognition (Crescenzi 2018;Peterson 2013). We identify
context similarity for third-party states in terms of geo-
graphic and politically proximity to US sanction targets.
To test our expectations, we estimate auto-regressive
models to model an equilibrium relationship between the
prevalence of (direct and third-party) US sanctions and a
states expenditure on lobbying the US government.
Results of models spanning 1975 to 2005 provide con-
sistent support that direct sanctions over security and
political issues are associated with lower lobbying of the
US government, while direct sanctions over economic
issues are associated with higher lobbying. Results are
more mixed regarding the lobbying behavior of third-
party states that are geographically and politically prox-
imate to US sanction targets.
This study contributes to a broader understanding of
sanction consequences. Earlier research focuses on
domestic political and economic strategies that tar-
geted regimes pursue to survive foreign pressure.
Studies suggest that target states might alter their
public spending priorities (Escrib`
a- Folch 2 012;
McLean and Whang 2021) or pursue repressive poli-
cies against their citizens (Wood 2008;Peksen 2009;
Adam and Tsarsitalidou 2019) to survive foreign
pressure. Other research points out that some targeted
leaders might also seek assistance from or develop
stronger economic ties with non-sanctioning entities to
diminish the intended cost of the coercion and remain
def‌iant against external sanctions (Early 2009). Our
analysis suggests that target states also consider
inf‌luencing sender policies via direct lobbying of the
sender government towards the removal (or avoidance)
of sanctions. While previous work suggests that it is
limiting to def‌ine sanctions successnarrowly in
terms of whether target states adopt policies the sender
demands (Galtung 1967;Lindsay 1986), we identify
specif‌ic alternate means by which states might gain the
approval of sender policy-makers in the attempt to end
or prevent sanctions without objective policy com-
pliance. We also add nuance to the literature on the
third-party consequences of sanctions (e.g., Early
2009;Peterson 2013;2014;2021;Miller 2014;Clay
2018) by identifying options beyond proactive policy
change that third-party witnesses to US economic
coercion might attempt to reduce their prospects of
future coercion.
Peksen and Peterson 445

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