The identification of an effective political strategy is of particular importance to firms seeking protection from import competition. The firm's fundamental choice is whether to lobby the Congress or directly petition the International Trade Commission (the primary agency for administering trade protection). In this article we summarize a debate in the political science literature regarding the extent to which federal agencies respond to short-term changes in congressional preferences. Using this literature as a basis, we develop a model to test whether International Trade Commission (ITC) decisions in escape clause cases reflect the preferences of Congress at the time the petition is filed. The results suggest that the ITC acts independently from immediate changes in congressional preferences. We conclude thatfirms seeking protection from import competition would be advised to commit resources to strengthening the evidence in their petition rather than to directly lobbying congressional representatives with the expectation that the Congress will influence ITC decisions.