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James Thurber

Distinguished Professor Department of Government

James A. Thurber is University Distinguished Professor of Government and Founder (1979) and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies ( at American University, Washington, D.C. Under his direction, CCPS organizes biannually the Campaign Management Institute and the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute over the last two decades. He was the principal investigator of a seven-year grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to study campaign conduct. He was also the principal investigator of a four-year study of lobbying and ethics for the Committee for Economic Development and is working with The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD-Paris) on international lobbying and ethics reform.

Dr. Thurber has been on the faculty at American University since 1974 and was honored as the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year in 1996. He was awarded the Senator Mark O. Hatfield Public Policy Scholar of the Year for 2013 by Portland State University. He was also received the 2010 Walter Beach Pi Sigma Alpha American Political Science Association award for his work combining applied and academic research. He was given the 2010 School of Public Affairs award for Outstanding Scholarship, Research, and Professional Contributions. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He is a member of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Lobbying Law Reform.

He is author of numerous books and more than eighty articles and chapters on Congress, congressional-presidential relations, congressional budgeting, congressional reform, interest groups and lobbying, congressional ethics, and campaigns and elections. His forthcoming book is American Gridlock: The Sources, Character and Impact of Political Polarization (with Antoine Yoshinaka). He is an author or editor of Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations (2013, 5th Ed.), Campaigns and Elections, American Style (with Candice Nelson, 2013, 5th Ed.), Obama in Office (2011), Congress and the Internet (with Colton Campbell, 2002), The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters (2001), Crowded Airwaves: Campaign Advertising in Elections (with Candice J. Nelson and David A. Dulio, 2000), Campaign Warriors: Political Consultants in Elections (2000), Remaking Congress: The Politics of Congressional Stability and Change (with Roger Davidson, 1995), Divided Democracy: Cooperation and Conflict Between Presidents and Congress (1991), and Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide (with Chaleff, Loomis, Light, and Serota, first three editions starting in 1988, 1990, and 1992). He co-produced three BBC-TV documentaries on the U.S. Congress and elections.

Dr. Thurber earned a BS in political science from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University and was an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.

He served as legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, U.S. Senator William Brock, U.S. Senator Adlai Stevenson III, and Representative David Obey. He was Director of the Washington DC based Human Affairs Research Centers of the Battelle Memorial Institute and served as acting Dean of the School of Government and Public Administration at American University.


PhD Indiana University
MA Indiana University
BA University of Oregon

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SPA - Government
Ward - 112
Contact Info
(202) 885-6247

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For the Media
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Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

  • The Contemporary Presidency: Changing the Way Washington Works?  Assessing President Obama’s Battle with Lobbyists,” Presidential Studies  Quarterly, 41, no. 2 (June), 2011, pp. 358-374
  • Obama in Office (Paradigm Publishers, 2010)(Editor).
  • Campaigns and Elections: American Style (Editor with Candice Nelson) (Westview Press, 3rd Edition, 2010).
  • Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 4th edition, 2009)(Editor).
  • Campaign Warriors: Political Consultants in Elections (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2000) (Editor with Candice Nelson).
  • Improving How Washington Works (Washington, DC: CED, July 2008).
  • The Battle for Congress: Candidates, Consultants and Voters, (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 2001) (Editor).
  • Congress and the Internet (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2003) (Editor with Colton Campbell).


AU Expert

Area of Expertise: American government and politics,  lobbying reforms and ethics, campaigns and elections, Congress, presidency, presidential-congressional relations, congressional reform and ethics, federal budget process and deficit, interest groups, voting behavior, campaign management

Additional Information: James A. Thurber is director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and editor of Congress and the Presidency. He is a former congressional committee staff member and legislative assistant to the late senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.), Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and others. Thurber has written more than 80 articles and chapters on presidential-congressional relations, campaigns and elections, the congressional budget process, congressional reform, lobbying reform, and civilian nuclear waste policy. His latest books include Obama in Office; Rivals for Power: Congressional-Presidential Relations (4th edition); The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates and Voters; Remaking Congress (with Roger Davidson); and Congress and the Internet. He coauthored-edited Campaign Warriors: The Role of Political Consultants in U.S. Elections and Crowded Airways: Campaign Advertising in Elections. Thurber is editor and contributing author of Divided Democracy: Cooperation and Conflict between the President and Congress, and coeditor (with AU professor Candice Nelson) of Campaigns and Elections American Style (3rd edition). He directed Improving Campaign Conduct, a seven-year research grant sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  He is regularly quoted by major media outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Financial Times and Congressional Quarterly and National Public Radio, NewsHour, NBC's Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, and others.

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