Take the Money and Run: Business Influence in the Legislative Process
John J. DiIulio
This political science honors thesis investigates corporate influence on the lawmaking process, with an emphasis on financial services legislation. The research question is: “As evidenced by the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act and Dodd-Frank Act, to what extent do corporate interests influence the lawmaking process in absolute and relative terms vis-à-vis their adversaries (consumer advocates, labor, etc.)?” In assessing the absolute influence of business groups, this thesis seeks to identify their power in the lawmaking process in relation to legislators; in identifying their relative power, it compares them to adversary groups. The hypothesis of this thesis is that corporate powers have significant but not hegemonic influence in the legislative process and that they were a strong force behind the shape of Gramm-Leach-Bliley and, to a lesser extent, Dodd-Frank. The first section of this thesis reviews relevant social science literature on the nature and influence of interest groups in governance. The next section analyzes the primary methods through which interest groups influence government: campaign finance and lobbying. This section includes information regarding the growth of such activities over time and the strong advantage business representatives have over unions, public interest groups, and consumer advocates. The third portion includes the two case studies: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform. These two case studies illustrate the strong power of business interest groups in the legislative process, while also demonstrating the continuing ability of consumer advocates to influence key policies.