Careers after Congress
Do Jobseeking Legislators Shortchange Constituents?
by Matthew S. Dabros
May 2017, 201pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4038-8
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4039-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Many legislators transition to other careers after leaving office. How many acted in office to serve their post-Congressional career motivations rather than the people they represent?

Citizens, journalists, and watchdog organizations claim that U.S. Congress members serve special interest groups in return for lucrative jobs in industry once they leave office—and that these legislators become lax in their final term of office as they are no longer compelled by elections to provide quality representation to citizens. This book investigates the veracity of these claims.

The established consensus among scholars and citizens groups is that democracy suffers when U.S. Congress members prepare to leave office—that legislators are quick to satisfy pressure groups’ requests in part because they anticipate being rewarded with financially compelling positions in those organizations once they leave office. But is this actually true? Focusing on 346 of the senators and representatives who left office during the 107th through 111th Congresses (January 2001 to January 2011), this book makes a counterintuitive argument: that job-seeking legislators provide stalwart service to citizens during their final term of office for fear of damaging their reputations and imperiling their post-Congressional career prospects.

After an introductory chapter, author Matthew S. Dabros summarizes past research on political opportunism before discussing how nonelectoral constraints imposed by special interests (namely, diminished post-Congressional employment opportunities) actually encourage job-seeking legislators to provide quality representation to citizens even in their final term in office. The book also describes the nature and identifies the determinants of post-Congressional careers. The chapters use numerous contemporary examples and draw parallels to topics familiar to general readers to ensure that the book is highly accessible and interesting to nonspecialists.


  • Offers a timely and fact-based perspective on the relationship between legislators and special interest organizations, one in which special interests constrain—not exploit—lawmakers' opportunistic proclivities
  • Documents how the fear of diminished post-office employment opportunities compels legislators to supply quality representation rather than succumb to opportunism in the final term of officeholding and in the absence of electoral constraints
  • Reveals that post-Congressional careers entail more than just lobbying through an up-to-date accounting of the career decisions of almost every senator and representative who left office between 2001 and 2011
  • Investigates and identifies the major factors that prompt legislators to remain in public service, take up a career in lobbying or elsewhere in the private sector, or retire from work altogether
Matthew S. Dabros, PhD, is assistant professor of political science at Aurora University, Aurora, IL. His research has been published in Business and Society, Public Choice, Public Integrity, The Journal of Legislative Studies, and Social Science Quarterly.


"This is an excellent, thought-provoking, and insightful book with respect to the fact that U.S. congressmen and -women are driven by rational self-interest in the legislative decisions they make while in office. They use their political office in different ways: to satisfy the desires of their constituents, but more important, to pave the way for their careers after Congress. This is definitely a must-read for political science majors nationwide and for anyone who cares about the effective functioning of our democratic process."—Oluwole Owoye, Professor of Economics, Western Connecticut State University

"Matthew S. Dabros takes the reader on a fascinating ride through the dark labyrinth of money in politics, untangling the web of delusion and deception passing as democracy in America today. Careers after Congress is both timely and sizzling with energy—a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of this country in 'Trump’s World'!"—Debra J. Kennedy, Senior Lecturer, Political Science, Aurora University

"Professor Dabros boldly challenges the conventional wisdom that self-interested behavior on the part of politicians is inherently bad for the American people. This counterintuitive conclusion is supported by the idea that the natural desire to work hard and become an attractive employee for private interests after a Congressional career might keep politicians honest better than ineffectual ethics policies. Dabros' conclusion liberates us from the Sisyphean task of trying to solve a post-elective employment problem we need not address, allowing us to focus our collective energy on solving real problems."—Mark W. Petersen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Bethany College
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