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Former government officials have many different opportunities to cash in on their public service, but most academic research and government ethics regulations focus on lobbying. We argue that this focus understates the extent and diversity of employment opportunities available to former officials. Using a new data set of officeholders in American government (members of Congress, governors, members of the cabinet, executive branch officials, and ambassadors), we show that, with the exception of members of the House, former officials are more likely to join boards of public companies than they are to work as registered lobbyists. Furthermore, former officials join boards more quickly and face fewer ethics regulations compared to lobbyists. Increasing restrictions on lobbying also appears to push former officials toward alternative employment such as board service. Our findings demonstrate the breadth of the labor market for former politicians and suggest fruitful new avenues for research on political careers.


Palmer, Maxwell, and Benjamin Schneer. "Postpolitical Careers: How Politicians Capitalize on Public Office." Journal of Politics 81.2 (April 2019): 670-675.