Advocates For Hire: How Government Contracting Shapes Politics


Leslie Finger and Carlos Lastra-Anadon. 2022. “Advocates For Hire: How Government Contracting Shapes Politics .” Governance, 35, 1, Pp. 187-208.
tfa_paper_1.pdf582 KB


Many public services in the U.S. are administered through non-state actors, many of which are nonprofits with broad social missions. Some scholars show that contracting these organizations can compromise their broader goals and political activities, while others find that such arrangements empower the organizations to engage in advocacy and influence policy. We argue that not only can contracting strengthen nonprofits’ capacity to engage in politics and advance their missions, but it can mobilize political activity among those working for and engaging with the nonprofit. We use the case of Teach For America (TFA) and an instrumental variable approach that leverages plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of TFA’s arrival in states to show that contracting TFA is related with the arrival of new education reform advocacy groups spearheaded by TFA alumni. This, in addition to TFA’s direct efforts, leads to the passage of reform policies - especially charter school laws.