Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens Princeton University and Benjamin Page Northwestern University.
The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.Bolding added by me.
In some ways politicians make it even worse than just direct bribery that at least ends when the briber gets what they paid for. The current system encourages legislators to maintain a state of constant threat to economic interests in order to bleed them for more donations. Rather than address issues that are important for the country they leave open wounds festering in order to get interested parties to pay more cash to get the needed changes made.
In legislation there are going to have to choices made and interested parties will win or lose. That people who don't get what they want will be frustrated I understand. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that
- politicians create legislation (or pressure for regulation and enforcement) that is clearly against the interests of the country (no matter what political frame you have in mind). This is a subset of what is done but this is horrible and widespread and only supported by corrupt parties.
- that we elect these corrupt people and parties after decades of clear evidence they are corrupt.
More quotes from the paper:
Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.As with most economic research there is plenty of room to argue with their conclusion (the data is often somewhat subjective and appropriateness of proxy measures can be argued). But I agree with some of the big conclusions they draw. They don't then tie the cash payments to politicians as the reason for why the most wealthy and most organized interest groups get their way but it lays out part of the story that exposes the corrupt system in place now.
By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy. This does not mean that theories of Economic Elite Domination are wholly upheld, since our results indicate that individual elites must share their policy influence with organized interest groups. Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential – more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.
Similarly, organized interest groups (all taken together, for now) are found to have substantial independent influence on policy. Again, the predictions of pure theories of interest group pluralism are not wholly upheld, since organized interest groups must share influence with economically elite individuals. But interest group alignments are estimated to have a large, positive, highly significant impact upon public policy.
These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.
Related: Why Congress Won’t Investigate Wall Street - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren - TPP Transparency Confirms the Worst Fears: USA Government Still Trying to Strip Away Rights of Citizens in USA and Elsewhere - Monopolies and Oligopolies do not a Free Market Make - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Good Journalism Aids Society by Shining the Light on Corruption - Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences - Bad Behavior Shining the light on the actions of those in power
An important feature of interest group influence is that it is often deployed against proposed policy changes. On the 1,357 proposed policy changes for which at least one interest group was coded as favoring or opposing change, in only 36% of the cases did most groups favor change, while in 55% of the cases most groups opposed change. (The remaining cases involved equal numbers for and against.)The Cash for Votes subreddit collects links to examples of political corruption in the USA and elsewhere.