Cities, Lobbyists, & the Power to Influence Politics

Date & Time: Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 12:00-1:30pm
Location: Initiative on Cities, 75 Bay State Road
Lunch will be provided

Join the BU Initiative on Cities and the American Politics Seminar Series for a discussion that explores why mayors rely on professional lobbyists to amplify their voices and represent their city’s interests in state politics. How did we end up with a system where political officials in different levels of government often choose to pay lobbyists to facilitate communication between them, and what are the potential benefits and costs?

The event will feature author, Julia Payson (New York University), who will share insights from her recent book, When Cities Lobby: How Local Governments Compete for Power in State Politics. Payson documents how local officials use lobbyists to compete for power in a political environment characterized by intense urban-rural polarization and growing hostility between cities and state legislatures. Following her presentation, a panel of experts – including the City of Boston’s Intergovernmental Relations Director Clare Kelly and President of Simon & Company Jen Covino – will join the author for a discussion.

About the Panel

Julia Payson is an Assistant Professor in the NYU Department of Politics and author of When Cities Lobby: How Local Governments Compete for Power in State Politics (Oxford University Press, 2022). Beginning July 2023, she will be an Assistant Professor in the UCLA Department of Political Science. She studies representation, political institutions, and public policy in state and local governments in the U.S. and her research has appeared in outlets such as The Journal of Politics and The American Political Science Review.

Jen Covino is the President of Simon and Company, Inc. and serves as the lead federal advocate for cities, counties, special district governments, and other public entities represented by the firm. She provides strategic guidance to local elected officials and public administrators, while functioning as the primary liaison to Members of Congress and the Administration. She is a proud Bostonian, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University with a double major in History and American Studies.

Clare Kelly is the Director of the Department of Intergovernmental Relations for the City of Boston. In this role, she tracks legislation and policy initiatives that concern the City directly, or urban and regional affairs more generally. She arranges for testimony by the Mayor, or on behalf of the Mayor, at legislative hearings of special concern, and coordinates the City’s participation in national, state, and municipal organizations. She previously served as the Executive Director of the Environmental League of MA (ELM) Action Fund, where she built political power to meet the scale and urgency of the region’s environmental challenges. 

Maxwell Palmer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston University and a Faculty Fellow at the Initiative on Cities. He studies American political institutions, including Congress, electoral institutions, and local political institutions, and is particularly interested in how institutional arrangements and rules impact representation and policy outcomes. He also works as a consultant and expert witness on questions about voting rights, redistricting, and representation. His current projects examine the local politics of housing and methods for analyzing redistricting plans.


The Boston University Initiative on Cities strives to be accessible, inclusive, and diverse in our programming. Your experience in this event is important to us. If you have a disability, require communication access services for Deaf or hard of hearing persons, or believe that you require a reasonable accommodation for another reason please contact Stacy Fox at to discuss your needs. 

Cities, Lobbyists, & the Power to Influence Politics

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