Resource Proposal: The Revolving Door

I will examine the revolving door concept that widely pervades the three spheres of business, government and society.  The revolving door, which conjures up the image of an actual revolving door installed in large buildings such as hotels, is the movement of personnel between roles as legislators and regulators and the industries affected by the legislation and regulation.  In other terms, the model studies how individuals interact with others in positions of government and business to impact the future of society.  Policymakers of the federal government do not make short and long-term decisions with isolated facts and distant connections with the private industry; quite conversely, lobbying is a potent tool employed by past government officials who have transitioned into business jobs.  Thus, the deep, interconnected web of relationships between politicians and government officials ultimately has impacts society’s future shape.  I will shape my policy argument on the revolving door by using the following supplements: Goldman Sachs as a business perspective, the current Lobbying Disclosure Act as a government perspective, and the Sunlight Foundation as a society perspective.

From a business perspective, I will focus on one of the largest, most prestigious and most heavily scrutinized banks in America: Goldman Sachs.  For at least the past decade, Goldman Sachs has contributed more campaign funds, directly or indirectly, to politicians than any other firm on Wall Street.  It has also spent the most funds lobbying on behalf of its own firm.  According to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit organization that tracks money flows in U.S. politics, Goldman Sachs spent almost $1 million on campaign finance and over $2 million on lobbying on behalf of its own firm.  My main sources will be Goldman Sach’s own Statement on Policy Engagement and Political Participation, updated in February 2014, Open Secrets and Congressional documents.  They will help frame my ideas and contextualize the data for useful comparisons in the private industry.

From a government perspective, I will focus on relevant features of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.  One feature is that the time lag between transitioning from a government position in Washington to a lobbying position in the private industry is one year; however, communication between individuals that contains routine information, and not any “attempt to influence a covered official,” is permitted at any time.  Thus, one can imagine the vagaries of casual golf outings and dinners between government officials and recently retired ones regarding private sector pursuits.  Secondly, I will examine the popular salary loophole, which also deems that if a government employee’s annual salary is less than $130,500, he or she is exempted from the one year “cooling period.”  I will use direct evidence from the Lobbying Disclosure Act to build my argument, as well as testimony from the legislatures who have shaped the Act.

Lastly, I aim to utilize data and research from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that uses technology and grants to “catalyze greater government openness and transparency.”  The organization is an expansive tool to meet the society perspective of my argument in uncovering money flows between Main Street and Wall Street, or private industry broadly.  The Sunlight Foundation receives large grants from individuals, corporations and other entities that could influence the website’s findings – this may or may not present challenges in my research.  The various features of the website provide real-time information on campaign finance, politician transitions and budget data.







One thought on “Resource Proposal: The Revolving Door

  1. This is thorough. You really discussed all THREE types of sources briefly. In the next two, take any two and in ONE explore that source more. For example, just look at the sunlight foundation. In the other, I suggest you look at your government source (or any new ones).

    There will also be plenty of books and research on this topic. You will face the problem of picking the best.

    Staying focused on the financial sector is a good idea. Arthur Levitt’s book, Take on the Street would be one. He was the head of the SEC (I think) and wrote about his frustrations trying to address some of these issues.

    Also, the book 13 Bankers by SImon Johnson and ? Kwak is good and I think covers some of the background.

    Matt Taibi, the journalist we read, has covered the ugly side of the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington in many articles.

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