The Political Strategies and Unity of the American Corporate Inner Circle: Evidence from Political Donations, 1982-2000

Source: Jennifer A Heerwig, Joshua Murray, Social Problems, Advance Access, August 21 2018

From the abstract:
Recent work has offered competing explanations for the long-term evolution of corporate political action in the United States. In one, scholars have theorized that long-term structural changes in the American political and economic landscape may have radically transformed inter-corporate network structures and changed the political orientation of corporate elites. In another, a small group of corporate elites continues to dominate government policy by advocating for class-wide interests through occupying key positions in government and policy planning groups. We offer new evidence of patterns in and predictors of political strategies among the nation’s elite corporate directors. We utilize an original dataset (the Longitudinal Elite Contributor Database) linked with registries of corporate directors and their board memberships. We ask: (1) has the political activity, unity, or pragmatism of the corporate elite declined since 1982; and (2) are individuals who direct multiple firms more pragmatic in their political action? Evidence suggests that corporate elites are more politically active and unified, and continue to exercise pragmatic political strategies vis-à-vis their campaign donations. Using random- and fixed-effects models, we present evidence to suggest that becoming a member of the inner circle has a significant moderating effect on elite political behavior. We offer an alternative mechanism of elite coordination that may help explain the continued political cohesion of the corporate elite.