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Why has lobbying grown and made DC rich?

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The news that seven of the ten highest income counties in the U.S. are in the Washington, DC area has prompted Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews to investigate why the DC wage premium has grown. In digging through the data, he finds that the growing wage premium correlates most closely with growth of lobbying spending that “The rise of influence-peddling more broadly, more than just lobbying, is likely what’s driving this correlation.” Sounds quite probable to me. Ross Douthat is likewise convinced that DC’s increasing wealth comes “from the growing armies of lobbyists and lawyers, contractors and consultants, who make their living advising and influencing and facilitating the public sector’s work.” And Matt Yglesias, with a nod to Will Wilkinson, believes that “the area's rising affluence seems clearly to be linked to the rising investment in influence peddling that characterizes American politics and the economy” All of this begs the question, however, as to why lobbying would have taken off now, in this last decade or so? This was the question that I tackled in my Ph.D. dissertation (and soon, ahem, eventually, book). The short answer is that over the last two decades, corporate America came to see the value of politics and learned to play the Washington game.

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