The Revolving Door in Financial Regulation: Elite Networks and the Consequences of Unequal Access on Policymaking

Awarded Scholars:
Kevin Young, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Bruce Desmarais, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Project Date:
Jan 2015
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

  • July 2016: Additional funding of $30,856 awarded to support additional data collection and data coding.

Recent scholarship suggests that affluent and organized business interests wield greater influence on policymakers and policy than those who are less affluent and less well-connected. One mechanism by which unequal access to policymakers and policymaking occurs is the “Revolving Door,” through which employment ties between former government employees and private industry serve as a conduit for influencing policy. These ties, and the differential access and knowledge they confer, have been hypothesized to undermine the policy process. For example, the head of a government agency retires and then is hired by a firm that lobbies that very agency for a change in the policy that s/he was enforcing.

Kevin Young and Bruce Desmarais note that the idea of the revolving door is thought to be a key component in “regulatory capture” in the financial industry. Despite the perceived importance of the revolving door phenomenon, existing evidence on its role in regulatory capture is rudimentary. Young and Desmarais suggest that this is largely due to data limitations which have only allowed simple tests of the hypothesis. To address these limitations, they will use social network analysis and much better data to examine how different individuals may have differing levels of ties to different organizations. This will allow for a more complex analysis of both direct and indirect influence of lobbying firms as well as other public and private organizations. They will also analyze the extent to which the variability in interest group influence can be explained by the different relationships that are implied by the revolving door hypothesis. They will model the revolving door at work in the financial sector by examining the movement of elites between the financial industry and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), then assess the extent to which financial industry organizations use revolving door connections to successfully lobby for favorable policy outcomes.


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