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Richard A. Devine, American University and Michael Holmes, Florida State University
(THE CONVERSATION) Political spending by corporations is big business.
As one corporate executive with experience in business-government relations says, “A company that is dependent on government that does not donate to politicians is engaging in corporate malpractice.”
Our research group heard that statement during a series of interviews with industry insiders that we conducted for a study on corporate political strategy and involvement in U.S state politics.
In the 2018 election cycle, for example, private interests spent US$500 million on campaign contributions to U.S. federal election candidates and nearly $7 billion to lobby federal officials.
As shown by campaign finance monitor the Center for Responsive Politics, those firms most affected by government regulation spend more. The operations of Facebook, for example, could be heavily affected by government legislation, whether from laws concerning net neutrality, data privacy, censorship or the company’s classification as a platform or publisher. Facebook spent over $2 million in contributions and $24 million in lobbying during the same period.
This kind of political spending is also common across state governments. From Alaska to Alabama, firms spend huge sums of money to influence policymaking because they depend on their local business environments, resources and regulations.
For example, after Citizens United, a landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that freed corporations (as well as nonprofits, unions and other associations) to spend unlimited amounts in elections, political spending skyrocketed. An examination of 16 states that provided pre-Citizens United data revealed that the 2018 election cycle saw over $540 million in independent spending across their state elections. This is compared with the 2007-2008 election cycle prior to the Citizens United ruling, in which independent spending in these states amounted to $106 million. That’s an over five-fold increase.
As the next election approaches, corporate involvement in state politics is vital to understand. Companies’ attempts to manage state regulations have important effects on their operations directly as well as on state revenues and on the lives of state…