Foreign influence in US politics

Advancing our understanding of the lobbying process

The question of who influences legislation has received great attention in the media and among academics. It is widely recognised that access to policymakers is a key resource in the lobbying process, and probably the one most sought after by interest groups; yet little is known about how access to policymakers is gained and allocated. This is because, public scandals apart, connections between lobbyists and politicians are unobservable.

This project aims to advance our understanding of the lobbying process by analysing the relations between lobbyists working on behalf of foreign sovereign nations and US legislators. Most research uses campaign contributions as a proxy for connections. This research intends to make progress on this central issue in political economics by utilising a new dataset to characterise the lobbyist-politician network and the extent to which lobbyists utilise their access.

“Lobbying is a primary avenue through which foreign entities attempt to influence policy in the United States.”

Dr Marco Grotteria

The potential impact

Understanding how access to politicians is gained and distributed in the economy is an important practical and theoretical question. From a normative perspective, the project’s findings may be helpful in designing more effective political institutions. From a positive perspective, it can help explain the determinants of the legislative process and how resources/funds are allocated when the government controls them. Moreover, from a theoretical standpoint, this work aims to shed light on the role of previously unexplored factors, such as political preferences and ideology, in the process of rule-making. Further, understanding the impediments to the effectiveness of the US legislative bargaining process is crucial; especially for developing countries who often contend with economic and political instability, and rely on foreign aid. This project has a substantial multidisciplinary nature, spanning the fields of economics and political science; hence it will be relevant to a large community of scholars and to legislators and policymakers.


Lakshmi Naaraayanan, Assistant Professor of Finance, London Business School

Dr Marco Grotteria holds a PhD in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. With research interests spanning the likes of asset pricing, macroeconomics, finance and politic, his work has been published in journals, including the Review of Financial Studies.

The Wheeler Institute has awarded funding to Marco Grotteria’s research for its business contribution to development in the developing world. Eligible applicants applied for research funding up to £20,000.

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