American Business and Political Power

Public Opinion, Elections, and Democracy


Most people believe that large corporations wield enormous political power when they lobby for policies as a cohesive bloc. With this controversial book, Mark A. Smith sets conventional wisdom on its head. In a systematic analysis of postwar lawmaking, Smith reveals that business loses in legislative battles unless it has public backing. This surprising conclusion holds because the types of issues that lead businesses to band together—such as tax rates, air pollution, and product liability—also receive the most media attention. The ensuing debates give citizens the information they need to hold their representatives accountable and make elections a choice between contrasting policy programs.

Rather than succumbing to corporate America, Smith argues, representatives paradoxically become more responsive to their constituents when facing a united corporate front. Corporations gain the most influence over legislation when they work with organizations such as think tanks to shape Americans' beliefs about what government should and should not do.
  • University of Chicago Press; January 2010
  • ISBN 9780226764658
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: American Business and Political Power
  • Author: Mark A. Smith
  • Imprint: University of Chicago Press

About The Author

Mark A. Smith is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington.