What is a revolving door in politics? Much like the revolving door you might see in a five-star hotel in the lobby, there is a similar revolving door in place in politics that allows for the free exchange of individuals from political life into private industry, where years of political experience can be put to use advantageously. The revolving door works in the other direction as well, with private industry officials taking all their years of experience into the political arena and using it to advance an agenda in politics. In this article, we’ll examine how widespread the revolving door situation has become, and some of the issues that have sprung up from having this mechanism in place. 

What is the Revolving Door of Politics?

The revolving doors of politics were so named because of the regular interchange of highly placed officials between the public sector and the private sector. The revolving door meaning is that private sector individuals like lobbyists and consultants take that knowledge with them to public sector positions in industry, and vice versa. This interchange leads to the question – is it appropriate for public sector servants like politicians to take their knowledge of an industry, and all the connections they’ve formed through their political life, into a private sector business where they can take advantage of that knowledge and those connections?

Why is the revolving door a problem? One of the biggest issues is that the success of any lobbyist in Washington will largely depend on their access to highly-ranked politicians, so they can make their opinions known and get them recognized. If the lobbyist is a former politician, he/she will already have built-in access to politicians by nature of their former political ties and relationships. That gives them an unfair advantage over others of course, but it also raises the question of the moral rectitude of this kind of access. 

When you have this kind of action going on across numerous fronts in politics and in private industry, it can skew the political scene decisively in a specific direction. As one revolving door politics example from Australia, consider the fact that of the 538 lobbyists by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 191 of them are former politicians. This situation is just as prevalent in the United States and the United Kingdom as it is in Australia, and in fact, has become common practice among many of the world’s governments. 

How Does the Revolving Door Phenomenon in Politics Affect Businesses?

When a business welcomes a former politician into its ranks, it is sometimes done with the understanding that the new private sector employee will use his/her influence with political ties by lobbying for legislation or other considerations favorable to the company. While there are some revolving door politics pros and cons, there are some legal issues that center around the conflict of interest inherent in two positions so closely related. What do revolving door laws prevent? In effect, they are meant to minimize this conflict of interest so as to avoid the possibility of either sector gaining a huge advantage due to knowledge and experience gained from the previous position.

Some states have revolving door laws that prohibit a former politician from becoming a lobbyist in that same industry for one year, two years, or even five years after leaving the political arena. This cooling off period supposedly allows time for some of that influence to be dissipated, and presumably the former politician might then be less influential in the new industry. In practice however, this is seldom the case, and politicians end up resuming all their old effectiveness in a given industry when they join the private sector.

It is also terribly difficult to prosecute any suspected case of conflict of interest or unwarranted influence. Most parties have learned by now that it’s easy enough to disguise the action by introducing some kind of time element. For example, if a politician were given $1 million by a specific company in exchange for a political favor, there’s no question that it is a prosecutable offense. However, five years later when the politician is set to retire and joins a new company in the private sector, he/she can easily be awarded a $1 million salary with no one being any the wiser. Businesses therefore, can certainly benefit by welcoming former politicians, as long as they are discreet about how they manage the employment.

The Revolving Door of Politics and the Common Citizen

So how does the revolving door government affect the common citizen? When politicians or lobbyists place their own personal interests above those of the people being governed, it constitutes corruption in government. Right from the earliest democratic civilizations, e.g. Athens and Rome, there have been fears of such corruption developing, and by that standard, the United States and all other current democratic societies, are not only corrupt, but they are massively corrupt.

But there are other aspects to this question beside the obvious repercussions of a corrupt government. What are the impacts of revolving door syndrome politics and revolving door lobbyists on the general public? The effects are generally felt by common citizens more when politicians go through the revolving door to become private-citizen lobbyists and consultants. That’s because powerful connections made during political life can still be exploited later by the same private citizen who is now employed by a private company. This can make it much more likely that the agenda advanced by a private company actually gets approved and implemented in Washington.

So, as an ordinary citizen, you might find that your life is affected by new laws that get installed as a result of lobbying efforts by a former politician. It might also be that government funding is allocated to programs that were advanced by a politician-turned-lobbyist, and this funding program is actually funded by you, the common citizen. As one good example, take the defense industry. A politician who retires and joins a private company as a lobbyist for military weaponry might very well be successful in lobbying for a huge government contract to be awarded to his/her new company. That new contract will be funded by the collective citizenry of the United States, yourself included.

Nevada’s Revolving Door

The state of Nevada has made an attempt to establish a ‘cooling off’ period when highly-ranked officials from the public sector want to enter political life, or when the reverse is true, and the individuals  wish to leave political life and join private industry. Nevada has mandated a one-year period between these two employment situations, which is intended to reduce the kind of influence a politician might wield in favor of a new employer. The state has also established similar regulations pertaining to individuals involved in the Gaming industry and in the Public Utilities arena, but for our purposes, it’s the revolving door of politics issue that is most relevant.

This constitutes Nevada’s commitment to ensuring ethics in government, and of avoiding even the appearance of corruption in state government. In practice however, it is subject to the same loopholes as those that exist at the national level – the regulation can be subverted if steps are taken to observe the time element and then follow up with the desired action. In fact, most states in the US have introduced similar legislation in an attempt to limit the kind of interchange that the revolving door allows for. However, the burden of proof is extremely difficult to nail down, and that’s why such cases rarely reach the stage where there is an actual prosecution taking place. 

Lobbyists and the Revolving Door

Lobbyists are paid by special interest groups or companies who support or oppose a specific piece of legislation, or who wish to be awarded a government contract for some product or service. Their job consists of meeting with politicians in an attempt to influence them to support the desired position of the special interest group or company. There can sometimes be a great deal of money at stake, for instance in the case of a government contract about to be awarded to a builder of military materials. There might also be a crucial piece of legislation pending that could negatively or positively impact the company or special interest group that hired the lobbyist.

These lobbyists work at the federal, state, and local levels, and they all have the same intent – to sway politicians into supporting their cause. Lobbyists have earned a negative connotation with most common citizens, because they are so well funded by their companies, and that gives them the influence they need to persuade politicians to support them. The average citizen lacks that kind of funding, and has no chance of influencing politicians to see their particular perspective. 


If you own a company in Nevada that really needs some traction in getting across an agenda in the state, you may need someone with a strong influence at the state level. Contact David Goldwater at your earliest convenience, so your particular issue can be discussed, and it can be determined whether Mr. Goldwater can be of service to you. When dealing with an issue that you absolutely have to get accomplished, there’s no better approach than to enlist the aid of one of the most influential lobbyists in the state of Nevada.

Leave a Reply