Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 19 > Issue 1

Influence-seeking in the Federal Bureaucracy: Do Groups Lobby or Monitor Policymakers?

Alex Acs, Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University, USA, acs.1@osu.edu
Suggested Citation
Alex Acs (2024), "Influence-seeking in the Federal Bureaucracy: Do Groups Lobby or Monitor Policymakers?", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 19: No. 1, pp 27-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00020133

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2024
© 2024 A. Acs
Regulation,  Bureaucracy,  Executive politics,  Interest groups,  Political economy,  Presidential politics,  Political parties
Bureaucracyinterest groupslobbying


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In this article:
Identification Strategy 
Empirical Analysis 
Discussion and Conclusion 


Influence-seeking by outside groups is widespread in the federal bureaucracy, as evidenced by public expenditure data. But less is known about the strategies that underlie these expenditures. The literature on influence-seeking points to two possibilities. Groups can lobby policymakers to persuade them to take a specific action, or groups can monitor policymakers, as in "fire alarm" oversight, and report any unwanted action to Congress and other interested overseers. I exploit the fact that these two strategies have different implications for which policymakers will be targeted. Groups have an incentive to lobby their allies and persuadable would-be allies, and an incentive to monitor their adversaries. Using data on influence-seeking expenditures, I find that conservative groups disproportionately target their adversaries, which is consistent with monitoring, and that liberal groups disproportionately target their allies, which is consistent with lobbying. I discuss the implications for our understanding of democratic accountability in bureaucratic policymaking.