Profile picture for user lapira.timothy

Tim M. LaPira

Associate Professor of Political Science, James Madison University
Chapter Member: Virginia SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Tim

LaPira's research focuses on American political institutions, with a focus on Congress, interest groups, and lobbying. Overarching themes in LaPira's writings include how the government contributes to inequality in interest representation in the private sector and the institutional capacity of Congress and its staff to govern. LaPira is the principal investigator of the 2017 Congressional Capacity Survey, is a member of the American Political Science Association's Organized Section on Public Policy's council, and is a member of the editorial board for the journal Interest Groups & Advocacy.

In the News

Research discussed by Thomas B. Edsall, in "The Lobbyists Blocking Nancy Pelosi and Her New Majority," The New York Times, January 10, 2019.


"Revolving Door Lobbying: Public Service, Private Influence, and the Unequal Representation of Interests" (with Herschel F. Thomas) (University Press of Kansas, 2017).

Revises the notion that lobbyists are inherently and institutionally corrupt. Draws a complex and sobering picture of the revolving door as a consequence of the eroding capacity of government to solve the public's problems.

"Drawing Lobbyists to Washington: Government Activity and Interest Group Mobilization" (with Beth Leech, Frank Baumgartner, and Nicholas Semanko). Political Research Quarterly 58, no. 1 (2005): 19-30.

Offers a new theory of government demand for interest group mobilization. Shows that short term shifts in government attention to selected policy areas causes groups to follow suit, suggesting that theories of group mobilization need to account for special interest demand by government itself, not simply how groups resolve supply-side collective action problems. 

"How Many Lobbyists are in Washington? Shadow Lobbying and the Gray Market for Policy Advocacy" (with Herschel F. Thomas). Interest Groups & Advocacy 6, no. 3 (2017): 199-214.

Shows lobbying regulations are becoming increasingly obsolete, and that there is a growing divide between transparency laws and the marketplace for policy advocacy. Suggests the unequal concentration of corporate influence is much greater than it may appear to the public. 

"Lobbying after 9/11: Policy Regime Emergence and Interest Group Mobilization" Policy Studies Journal 42, no. 2 (2014): 226-251.

Discusses how the new Homeland Security policy regime promised to streamline security and disaster policy across multiple jurisdictions and to minimize the influence of entrenched special interests. Shows that the opposite occurs, with entrenched interests simply shifting their attention to follow the new governing structure and with a whole new set of corporate interests emerging to seek new government contracts, expand existing programs, and capture the new agency and oversight committees.

"The Interest Group Top Tier: Lobbying Hierarchy and Inequality in American Politics" (with Lee Drutman and Matt Grossmann), in Can America Govern?, edited by Frances Lee and Nolan McCarty (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Reveals how vast inequality is within the interest group system, with an increasingly persistent top tier of 100 organizations that spends roughly a third of all lobbying expenditures, hires a third of all lobbyists, and shows remarkable breadth of issue interest. May help resolve an apparent conflict between prior findings that the highest-spending interest groups usually get what they want, but no particular resource advantage or advocacy tactic consistently buys policy outcomes. 

"Lobbying in the Shadows: How Private Interests Hide from Public Scrutiny and Why That Matters" in Interest Group Politics 9th Edition, edited by Allan J. Cigler, Burdett A. Loomis, and Anthony Nownes (CQ Press, 2015), 224-248.

Shows that the Lobbying Disclosure Act is deeply flawed, riddled with loopholes, and very poorly enforced. Shows that the result is a lobbying regime that is effectively ungoverned, allowing well-heeled interests to undermine the public's interest to know who, when, and why special interests influence government.