Abstract

The ability of economic interest groups to influence policy is a common theme in economics and political science. Most theories posit that interest group power arises from the ability to influence elected or appointed government officials through vote-buying, lobbying, or revolving doors; that is, by exploiting the representative part of democracy. This raises the question: does special interest influence decline when policy is chosen using direct democracy, without involvement of representatives? An analysis of the content of the universe of state-level ballot initiatives during 1904-2017 reveals that business interests have been worse off as a result of initiatives across major industrial groups. An examination of all large contributions to ballot measure campaigns in California during 2000-2016 reveals that corporate and business interests were usually on the defensive with initiatives, and were much less likely to gain favorable legislation from citizen-initiated proposals than from proposals that originate in the legislature. The evidence suggests that economic interest groups have less influence under direct than representative democracy.

Disciplines

Law | Law and Economics | Law and Politics | Public Law and Legal Theory | State and Local Government Law

Date of this Version

7-10-2018

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