Networks of Champions

Leadership, Access, and Advocacy in the U.S. House of Representatives
Christine A. DeGregorio
An explanation of why Congress can, at times, pass difficult and controversial legislation


Media accounts of Congress emphasize conflict and the failure of Congress to enact legislation. Rarely do we see accounts of the successful efforts of members of Congress and outside advocacy groups to pass legislation dealing with important and controversial issues.

In Networks of Champions Christine A. DeGregorio identifies who in the U.S. House of Representatives took the lead in shepherding six major bills, dealing with welfare reform, drug control, international trade, farm policy, nuclear weapons testing, and assistance to the Contras, through Congress and how these champions of legislation worked with outside advocacy groups. DeGregorio finds that the champions of this legislation were drawn from a diverse group that included individuals both within and outside the formal hierarchy of leadership. The champions, who were not necessarily the prominent holders of important positions, are characterized by having knowledge of the subject matter, experience in the House, a facility for bargaining and compromise, the right committee assignments, and a commitment to hard work.

DeGregorio traces how these groups become influential and how the groups affect the policy-making process. She finds a reciprocal process in which advocacy groups use champions to express their views while champions use the resources of advocacy groups to gain influence in the House.

Based on extensive interviews with key congressional staff members and the leaders of advocacy groups, DeGregorio provides critical new insights into the legislative process. This book will be of interest to those who study the legislative process and the role of interest groups in making American policy.

Christine A. DeGregorio is Associate Professor, Department of Government, School of Public Affairs, American University.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a substantial contribution to our understanding of advocacy in Congress."
    —Barbara Sinclair, University of California, Los Angeles
  • "DeGregorio's study is thoughtful and carefully executed."
    American Political Science Review
  • "The design employed in Networks results in important new insights regarding the nature of leadership and interest group access in the policymaking process."
    APSA Legislative Studies Section Newsletter
  • "By interrogating lobbyists and Congressional staff in a systematic way, the present study, based on six large bills, gives a complicated picture of leadership in the House of Representatives in which the usual markers of high party office and committee leadership are not the whole story. The personal initiative of members, experience in the body, and the willingness to learn the issues also matter. . . . [A] detailed, credible picture of the workings of a highly transformative legislative body."
  • ". . . a richly empirical book that deeply explores the meaning and substance of policy networks. . . . [A] highly dense book filled with provocative findings, one that invites scholars to examine the policy process by considering a broad range of policy makers and by looking more carefully at the differences between them. . . . The book is intellectually challenging, demonstrating the grasp of its author on a wide range of thought on American politics. . . . . Christine DeGregorio has made interesting and important contributions in Networks of Champions. There is plenty of material here to enlighten scholars and to challenge graduate student seminars for some time."
    Congress & the Presidency
  • "Christine DeGregorio has succeeded in illuminating policy leadership across the entire pressure community operating in and around the U.S. House of Representatives. By crossing subfield specialties, she produces an unusually complete portrait of legislative influence dynamics. . . . The central distinguishing aspect of this work is its innovative look at legislative leaders. . . . No other approach to legislative leadership better captures actual leaders."
    Political Science Quarterly, Winter 1998-99

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02344-8

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