Intergovernmental Lobbying and the Market for Representation

Abstract: My dissertation is a book project that asks why some local governments in the U.S. hire lobbyists to represent them before their state capitals and estimates the returns to lobbying by cities using original panel data from all 50 states. I develop a representational theory of intergovernmental lobbying and show that cities hire lobbyists when they aren’t satisfied with the formal representation they receive from their elected officials in the statehouse. I test this theory using original state-level panel data on municipal finances and lobbying expenditures as well as qualitative interviews and case studies to show that cities lobby their state capitals in response to a variety of representational concerns. For example, cities are more likely to lobby when they receive a new state legislator or when they are represented by an official who is given an unfavorable rating by the state municipal league. I then use difference-in-differences, fixed and random effects, and other panel methods to estimate the returns to lobbying. I show that cities consistently receive more revenue from the state both when they hire a lobbyist and when they allocate more money to lobbying. However, I also find that richer cities are more likely to hire lobbyists and secure additional state benefits when they do. I conclude that although lobbying can serve as an alternative path for local governments to achieve representation, it has the additional consequence of contributing to horizontal inequality in multilevel government.

Job Market Paper 

Cities in the Statehouse: The Distributive Consequences of Municipal Lobbying

Abstract: What happens when local governments hire lobbyists to represent them before other levels of government? Although intergovernmental lobbying is common in the U.S. and other federal systems, we know little about its consequences. I estimate the returns to city lobbying using newly compiled panel data on yearly municipal finances and state-level lobbying expenditures. I use a difference-in-differences design to show that lobbying increases the revenue that cities receive from the state. However, not all localities benefit equally from lobbyist representation. I find that cities with higher levels of overall revenue per capita spend more on lobbying and receive additional economic benefits from their efforts. These results indicate that although lobbying is an effective way for local governments to secure transfers from state capitals, it may also contribute to horizontal inequality in multilevel government.


When Are Local Incumbents Held Accountable for Government Performance? Evidence from U.S. School Districts. 2016. Legislative Studies Quarterly  41(4).

Abstract: Do voters hold local officials accountable for government performance? Using over a decade of panel data on school district elections and academic achievement in California, I causally identify the effect of test score changes on school board incumbent re-election rates and show that incumbents are more likely to win re-election when test scores improve in their districts--but only in presidential election years. This effect disappears in midterm and off-years, indicating that election timing might play an important role in facilitating local government accountability.

(Replication code and data here)

In Progress

Estimating the Value of Political Connections in State Lobbying 

The Politics of Exclusion in State Municipal Codes

School District Failure and School Board Electoral Performance: A Regression Discontinuity Design With a No Child Left Behind Intervention

The Political Careers of Special District Board Members

Policy Work

Test scores and school boards: Why election timing matters2017. Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard, March 22.


julia [dot] payson [at] nyu [dot] edu

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