Moderation or Strategy? Political Giving by Corporations and Trade Groups

Sebastian Thieme


Do bipartisan contributions by corporations and trade associations reflect strategic considerations or ideological moderation? In this article, I leverage lobbying disclosures in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin to provide a new measure of ideology that allows me to adjudicate between the two accounts. These states' legislatures permit or require lobbyists to declare their principals' positions on lobbied bills. I combine these data with roll call votes to estimate the ideal points of legislators and private interests in the same ideological space. I find that the revealed preferences of most corporations and trade groups are more conservative than what would be implied by their contribution behavior. This shows that a moderate contribution record need not imply moderation in policy preferences. Thus, such interests may not reduce polarization overall. Further, the divergence between contribution and position-taking behavior indicates that many business interests employ sophisticated strategies to influence public officials whom they disagree with.

Publié dans

The Journal of Politics, vol. 82, n° 3, juillet 2020, p. 1171–1175