Published in


Politics and COVID

Why did the New York Metropolitan Opera hire a lobbyist?

How the pandemic has changed the value of lobbying

The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City cancelled its entire 2020–21 season during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: Wikimedia)

Did social distancing change the practice of lobbying?

Using data from Congressional lobbying disclosure reports, we looked to see what impact the pandemic has had on lobbying. Specifically, we looked to test if the relative value of “contract-lobbying,” which is conducted by firms with multiple clients, increased compared to “in-house” lobbying, usually done by employees of large firms with a permanent presence on the Capitol. Using the mid-March onset of legislative social distancing measures as a natural experiment of sorts, we compared the share of revenue collected by contract lobbyists to total amount spending on lobbying. MIT Professor In-Song Kim provides a cleaned version of Congressional LDA data at Lobbyview.org.

Figure 1: Share of all Congressional lobbying revenue reported by contract lobbyists for election years. (Data source: Lobbyview.org. Image source: The authors)
Fig. 2: Coefficients from regression model predicting the share of lobbying for contract lobbyists (Q1-Q2, 2014–2020. (Data source: Lobbyview.org. Image source: The authors.)

Why does contract lobbying matter?

The relative amount of contract lobbying going up is revelatory about the market for lobbying during the pandemic. A defining feature of contract lobbyists is that they serve many clients, therefore the value they offer to clients is not a deep knowledge of any one issue or policy domain in Congress. They are more access-oriented and it appears as if the pandemic has placed a particular premium on access.



3Streams is a blog for anyone interested in the convergence of politics, policy & ideas. It elevates the work of scholars interested in reaching a wider audience on timely topics with novel perspectives. To write for the blog, just leave a message or email 3Streamsblog@gmail.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store