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What to lobby on? Explaining why large American firms lobby on the same or different issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2019


What determines whether or not firms lobby on the same policy issues? Scholars offer two broad answers to this question. Firms that are (1) similar or (2) connected through interorganizational ties target the same policy issues. In this article, I argue that the co-occurrence of these two conditions produces the opposite outcome, namely a tendency to lobby on different issues. This expectation draws on ideas from collective action theory and the literature on issue niches. From these, I derive the following assumptions: similar firms share political objectives and they should, when possible, act collectively by jointly delegating their lobbying activities. The reason for doing this is that it allows them to focus on their issue niches. However, the ability to delegate hinges on coordination and monitoring, which is facilitated by interorganizational relations. To test this proposition, I study the largest American corporations. The dependent variable is activity overlap, a measure of the extent to which firms lobby on the same issues. According to expectations, activity overlap is reduced when firms operate in the same industry and, simultaneously, enjoy favorable conditions for social interactions, such as a concentrated market structure. These results lend support to collective action theory.

Research Article
Copyright © V.K. Aggarwal 2019 and published under exclusive license to Cambridge University Press

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This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council (grant no 421-2014-962).


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