Lobbying at constitutional conventions: venues for the people

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constitutional conventions are popularly expected to attract many organized interests seeking to enshrine particularistic benefits into law for perpetuity, but there is limited empirical research on interest mobilization and lobbying at conventions. I propose that conventions attract different types of interests than legislative sessions and that, as a result, fears over runaway lobbying at conventions are overblown. Conventions and sessions differ in ways that affect interest mobilization. As opposed to legislators, convention delegates lack electoral incentives and focus on framework-related issues. Unlike proposed statutes, proposed constitutions must be approved by voters directly. These three differences discourage lobbying by narrow interests and encourage lobbying by broad interests. To test my claims, I examine archival records to identify the interests and lobbyists that were active during eight past conventions in American states. The findings contradict popular narratives: conventions attracted higher proportions of broad, membership-based interests than legislative sessions, and fewer interests overall as well. While convention interests employed comparable numbers of lobbyists as did session interests, they employed fewer multi-client lobbyists, on average. These findings have implications for how future conventions may be structured to ensure that constitutions are most representative of broad interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-544
Number of pages28
JournalInterest Groups and Advocacy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Constitutions
  • Conventions
  • Interest groups
  • Lobbying
  • State politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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