Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2017
This paper proposes a theory of political action based upon ownership structure and tests this theory utilizing data on independent expenditures during the campaign finance regulatory regime consisting of the period after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and before the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. The results suggest a strong relationship between the presence of an entrepreneur or founding family and firm participation in electoral politics via contributions to independent political organizations. Both privately held and publicly traded firms with a principal owner present are more likely to contribute to independent political organizations in the first place, and once they do contribute, give a far greater amount relative to firms without a principal owner. The implications for the post-Citizens United era and possible motivations behind independent expenditures and their impact on other stakeholders including investors, employees, competitors, and the public are discussed. This paper contributes to our understanding of which corporate interests are most likely to spend money on electoral politics independent of the political party or candidate and seeks to broaden discourse about why these actors might participate in elections in the first place as well as the impact of their participation.