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Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute

PAAI Graduating Class Spring 2018

Welcome! We are the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute (PAAI) at American University. We offer advanced workshops conducted by lobbying professionals throughout the year and host the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute in January and May.

Taking advantage of its setting in the nation's capital, PAAI (formerly the Lobbying Institute) offers courses on the representation of organized interests to the federal government combining academic approaches with the real world of Washington lobbying.

Dr. Thurber with then Senator Obama presenting on congressional ethics reform

The Institute is a two-week intensive course (4 credit hours) offered in January and May focusing on major aspects of professional lobbying and political influence. The Institute features speakers from the faculty of American University and approximately 40 prominent professional lobbyists representing corporations, trade and professional associations, public interest and other citizen groups, labor unions, as well as law and lobbying firms.

PAAI Group project presentation

The workshop examines the full range of strategies and tactics pursued by organized interests and their lobbyists in attempting to gain access, obtain and exchange information, and influence policy makers in Congress and the executive branch. Drawing on their rich body of experiences, prominent lobbyists involved in all aspects of their profession offer lectures on such topics as direct lobbying, fundraising, the uses of different kinds of political money, various types of grassroots programs, coalition-building, advertising and public relations, and litigation strategies.

Students with certificates

Workshop participants are divided into teams to apply this knowledge by simulating the activities of a real-life lobbying firm. Under the direction of a senior Washington lobbyist serving as a mentor, each team creates a strategic lobbying plan on an important current public policy issue for a prospective client. On the final day of the institute the combined student and professional teams make a presentation of their strategic plans to a panel of faculty and lobbying professionals.

The Center offers several financial awards to help offset the costs of participating in the institutes.

AU students should see their academic adviser for information on enrolling in the institutes. There are also a limited number of seats available to non-AU students to participate in the institutes. Professionals can apply by submitting a resume and letter of interest to

Learn more about the PAAI sessions for the upcoming academic year.

  • 4 credit hours.
  • The January Institute is part of the academic Spring semester.
  • The May Institute is part of the academic Summer semester.
  • Talk with your adviser about registering for GOVT 523.
  • Scholarship information is available.
  • Cost (non-credit): $1500 plus fees.
  • You provide your own lodging and travel arrangements.
  • The course schedule runs from approximately 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday.
  • Limited spots are available for professionals in January due to higher student registrations. More information available in early November.
  • To apply, email a resume and letter of interest to
  1. Patrick Griffin and James A. Thurber, Teaching Public Policy Advocacy by Combining Academic Knowledge and Professional Wisdom, Interest Groups and Advocacy, 4 (2015), pp. 40-51. - Page 40-51.
  2. Gary Andres, Patrick Griffin, James A. Thurber, “The Contemporary Presidency: Managing White House-Congressional Relations: Observations from Inside the Process,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, 30:3 (2000), pp. 553-563.
  3. James A. Thurber, “From Campaigning to Lobbying,” in Candice J. Nelson, David A. Dulio, Stephen K. Medvic, eds., Shades of Gray: Perspectives on Campaign Ethics (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), pp. 151-170.
  4. James A. Thurber, “Changing the Way Washington Works? Assessing President Obama’s Battle with Lobbyist,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, 2011.
  5. James A. Thurber, “Obama’s Battle with Lobbyists,” in James A. Thurber (Ed.), Obama in Office Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. 2011.
  6. James A. Thurber, “Lobbying, Ethics, and Procedural Reforms: The Do-Nothing 109th Congress Does Nothing about Reforming Itself,” Extensions. Fall 2006.
  7. James A. Thurber, Testimony before the House and Senate Rules committees on lobbying reform, March 2006.