They are who we thought they were
In a fascinating new NBER working paper (ungated version here), Bertrand, Bombardini, & Trebbi try to sort out whether it's expertise or connections that make lobbyists valuable. Here's the bottom line (the extra emphasis is mine, not theirs):
"A pure issue expertise view of lobbying does not fit the data well. Instead, maintaining connections to politicians appears central to what lobbyists do. In particular, we find that whom lobbyists are connected to (through political campaign donations) directly affects what they work on. More importantly, lobbyists appear to systematically switch issues as the politicians they were previously connected to switch committee assignments, hence following people they know rather than sticking to issues. We also find evidence that lobbyists that have issue expertise earn a premium, but we uncover that such a premium for lobbyists that have connections to many politicians and Members of Congress is considerably larger."
Somehow, those results reminded me of this: