Working paper

Political Capital in the 21st Century: An Electoral Theory of Going Public and Private

Jonathan Klingler


The Bush and Obama administrations have complemented their capacity to make public appeals by creating grassroots lobbying organizations with the explicit purpose of mobilizing supporters to pressure Congress to pass presidential policy priorities. This paper advances the study of organizations like Organizing for Action by considering their ability to make targeted appeals to the primary electorate of the president's party as well as orchestrate indirect mass persuasion campaigns. Furthermore, this paper defines the costs of lobbying in terms of those tactics' electoral costs. I present a model which predicts that targeted appeals will be more common under unified government and that mass persuasion attempts will be less common as the organizational capital of these organizations can be efficiently applied to electoral ends. The model also predicts that public appeals become less common as the time costs and relative electoral productivity of presidential time increase. I find empirical support for these hypotheses in data obtained from emails sent by Organizing for America/Organizing for Action to subscribers since its creation in early 2009 and in presidential primetime addresses made since 1957.

See also

Published in

IAST working paper, n. 15-19, December 2014