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  • The First State Lobbyists:State Offices in Washington During World War II
  • Jennifer M. Jensen (bio) and Jenna Kelkres Emery (bio)

During World War II, New York and Connecticut established offices in Washington, primarily to lobby for war contracts, but also to represent the states' views with regard to federal economic policies and programs. These early Washington lobbying offices were the first of many. In time, the majority of states established such offices. In the fall of 2010, there were twenty-eight such offices, and governors—acting through membership associations such as the National Governors Association and the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations and individual lobbying operations—are powerful lobbying forces in Washington.1

Information on these offices is virtually nonexistent. Most records wrongly indicate that state lobbying offices in Washington were not established until many years later.2 For example, a 1988 Governing article lists California as the first state to establish a Washington office, in 1967; this source also lists the date of origin for the New York office at 1969 and the Connecticut office at 1972.3 A 1992 memo from the Connecticut General Assembly's office of Legislative Research on the history of the state's own Washington office incorrectly notes that it was established in 1978.4 Writing in 1995, David [End Page 117] Walker bemoaned the need for federal lobbying offices that he noted had developed since the 1960s, stating that "more than three decades ago … states needed no lobbying operations in Washington; their congressional delegations were enough."5 The records of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, located in the National Archives, refer only once to any state lobbying office during the 1940s—the organization's 1968 annual report notes that the office in New York was established in 1943—and that reference is hidden amid much other material.6 Jon Teaford's well-regarded history of American state government mentions these offices only once, in his discussion of governors' lobbying efforts in Washington in the 1970s.7

The lack of information—and misinformation—on state lobbying offices is unfortunate. Much of the literature on federalism during the Depression and war years focuses on the evolution that took place during this period—how intergovernmental relations became more prominent and federal regulation more commonplace, how intergovernmental transfers increased. The existing literature tells us little about the actions states took to maximize their opportunities.8 This study is designed to illuminate these early efforts. In addition, if these offices themselves are virtually unknown in the literature, the reasons behind their creation are certainly unexplored. Do they reflect the forces that lead other types of organized interests to establish lobbying offices? In answering these questions, this article also contributes to the literature on how interests mobilize to influence policy. As Tichenor and Harris point out, there is much less research on interest organizations before World War II than after, and there is "value to bringing both history and theory to bear on the study of interest groups."9

We use records from the Connecticut and New York State Archives to investigate the activities of these previously unexplored offices, augmenting these materials with economic and political data to investigate why these two states would be the first to establish lobbying operations in Washington. As these offices are interest organizations, we seek to learn whether the creation of these state lobbying offices was influenced by the forces that typically motivate the establishment of an interest organization. We draw from the literature on interest group formation as well as theories of cooperative federalism to understand how the changes of the 1930s and early 1940s created an environment that made it beneficial for governors to establish federal lobbying operations. We also utilize the literature on interest group entrepreneurs to help us understand why Connecticut governor Robert Hurley and New York governor Herbert H. Lehman were the first to establish offices.10 [End Page 118]

These lobbying offices were not the only mechanism that states used to lobby. Governors formed regional associations during this time to lobby collectively, and certainly governors lobbied directly for policies and appropriations that would favor their states. Officials from state agencies lobbied as well. But these...


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pp. 117-149
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