The determinants of direct corporate lobbying in the EU: A multi-dimensional proxy of corporate lobbying

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Abstract

This article argues for a more thorough analysis of the dynamics of corporate lobbying within the European Union (EU). Although there is broad consensus among scholars on the emergence of a new type of European lobbying, studies have not sufficiently addressed the underlying economic rationale. Indeed, many authors emphasise the shift towards a system based on direct lobbying; however, these concentre only on systemic and non-economic causes. Direct lobbying dynamics are perceived mainly in two ways: either as a consequence of a conscious political strategy of the European institutions in response to the ?interest overload? of the mid-1990s or as a normal phase of the development of interest group populations. Advocating an economics-based analytical approach to European corporate lobbying, this contribution to the debate provides one of the very first attempts to uncover the influence of economic factors on direct corporate lobbying by building on the seminal work proposed by Bernhagen and Mitchell. These authors, very familiar with the American tradition of corporate lobbying studies, were the first to apply a ?standard model of corporate political behaviour? to the European context by examining the various determinants of direct lobbying. This article goes further: it analyses the empirical database constructed by Bernhagen and Mitchell, with a multi-dimensional proxy of corporate lobbying. Indeed, the main contribution of this study is in its analysis, namely, the operationalisation of the dependent variable ?direct lobbying?. It proposes a multi-strategy/multi-venue operationalisation of the dependent variable aiming to overcome the pitfalls that characterise dichotomous and uni-dimensional operational definitions, in order to answer the research question: ?What are the economic determinants of direct corporate lobbying in the EU?? Such a multi-dimensional operationalisation of the dependent variable has required the unpacking of some of the elements taken for granted in the discussion on corporate lobbying. This article argues that the researcher needs to take into consideration the various direct lobbying strategies and their relative weights (that is, the multi-strategy operationalisation). For example, accreditation to the EP is not equal to the establishment of a company representation office in Brussels. Furthermore, another possible level of action of a firm's strategy, namely, the industry one, should also be considered (that is, the multi-venue operationalisation): direct lobbying should be analysed as a preference over other lobbying approaches rather than in absolute terms. The findings show how such an expanded operationalisation casts light on the economic determinants of European corporate lobbying. First of all, the Olsonian argument finds empirical support: industry concentration determines lobbying strategies. Second, asset mobility/specificity influences a firm's preference to lobby directly vis-à-vis other venues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-90
Number of pages20
JournalInterest Groups and Advocacy
Volume2
Issue number1
Early online date25 Sept 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013

Keywords

  • European union
  • corporate lobbying
  • Olsonian argument
  • collective action problems
  • factor endowments trade theories
  • asset specificity

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