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Trading Places? A Sequence Analysis of the Revolving Door in U.S. Trade Policy

22 May 2023-
TL;DR: This paper employed sequence analysis methods to systematically measure the patterns and prevalence of the revolving door, or the movement of personnel between public office and private sector lobbying, has been identified by commentators and scholars as a potential source of corporate influence in politics.
Abstract: The revolving door, or the movement of personnel between public office and private sector lobbying, has been identified by commentators and scholars as a potential source of corporate influence in politics. Yet, methods for the measurement of this phenomenon in the U.S. have to date relied on anecdotal or incomplete data. In this paper, I employ sequence analysis methods to systematically measure the patterns and prevalence of the revolving door. Through descriptive analysis of the complete career trajectories of the population of employees at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) from 2001-2020 (n=658), I show that the revolving door is widespread and heterogeneous in its timing and sequences. Over half of all employees (51.5%) have worked in both lobbying and public office. Five distinct types of career paths illustrate the heterogeneity of revolving door careers, as well as different mechanisms of capital reconversion and accumulation. These findings suggest that prior studies of the revolving door have undermeasured and under-conceptualized the heterogeneity of these careers.