walker on corporate grass-roots lobbying
Ed Walker, UCLA sociologist and former ogtheory guest blogger, has written an op-ed for the New York Times about corporate grass-roots lobbying. Those of you who follow Ed’s work will know that he has identified a trend among corporations that sponsor grass-roots mobilization to persuade the public and government regulators to promote corporate-friendly policies. His op-ed likens this active lobbying effort to more tacit forms of citizen support for corporations, such as the recent “buycott” of Chick-Fil-A by consumers who approved of the company’s president’s stance on same-sex marriage.
Ed notes that political outspokenness by corporations is more common (and are more successful) than we might suspect:
I estimate that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use grass-roots-mobilization consultants. Many are independent agencies founded by former political campaign professionals searching for revenue during electoral off years, deploying their voter outreach skills to help companies win. Others are branches of large public-relations conglomerates. Businesses hire these consultants most often when facing protest or controversy, and highly regulated industries appear to be some of the heaviest users of their services.
Today, for instance, anyone turning on a TV or radio might easily face ads from the American Petroleum Institute’s Vote4Energy campaign or the natural gas industry’s mobilization to defend the controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing. The Durbin Amendment’s cap on debit card fees prompted Visa and Bank of America to support a grass-roots campaign through the Electronic Payments Coalition. Tobacco firms are behind Citizens for Tobacco Rights, just as they supported the National Smokers’ Alliance two decades ago. Pro-tobacco campaigns often fail, but not always: in California, tobacco-related groups spent almost $47 million to defeat a June ballot measure that would have imposed new cigarette taxes to pay for cancer research.
For those of you interested in the research from which these findings come, here is a link to Ed’s 2009 ASR paper. Here are the posts that Ed wrote as a guest blogger on orgtheory before he became famous in the pages of the NY Times.
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