First Advisor

Steven N. Brenner

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science


Systems Science




Corporations -- United States -- Political activity, Political action committees -- United States, Business and politics -- United States



Physical Description

4, xviii, 301 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


During the past two decades business has become increasingly active in the political process, and scholars continue to debate the extent to which this activity is organized. This fundamental issue is addressed by examining corporate political activity within the context of resource dependence and class cohesion theories. Political action committee (PAC) campaign contributions, this study's measure for corporate political activity, are structurally analyzed to determine if either resource dependence or class cohesion theory explains the forces which drive business participation in the U.S. public policy process. The rationale which forty-two diverse corporate PACs exercise when selecting which congressional campaigns to support during two election cycles is explored. Resource dependence theory contends .that a firm's behavior is a function of its dependence on the environment for resources. Successful firms attempt to manage this external dependence by controlling or manipulating their environment corporate involvement in politics, therefore, will reflect a firm's dependence on the government for sales, subsidies or regulation. The regulatory environment in which a firm operates is this study's measure of resource dependence. Conversely, class cohesion theory argues that a firm's political activity is a function of its top management's inclusion in a network of corporate elites. Board members and chief executives from the nation's largest corporations coalesce to advance a political agenda which is compatible with the overarching goals of the business community rather than the parochial goals of an individual firm or even industry. Interlocking directorates, professional association memberships, shared educational experience and geographic proximity of headquarters locations are this study's indicators of a corporate elite network. Two categories of analytical methodology are applied. Multidimensional scaling maps corporate patterns of support for congressional candidates based on a PAC contribution proximity measure. These patterns are subsequently subjected to discriminant analysis, canonical correlation, regression and chi-square analysis to test for Resource Dependent and Class Cohesive political behavior. The results are conclusive: Support of selected congressional campaigns is more likely fueled by fragmented business interests, as resource dependence theory suggests, rather than the collective motives of a corporate elite. In fact, no support emerged for class cohesion theory as an explanation for the observed patterns of intercorporate relations. Further, a corollary proposition that PAC activity will vary with the ideology of White House administrations is not supported. Rather, PAC contribution patterns do not vary significantly between the Carter and Reagan administrations. This research renders four significant contributions to scholarship: 1. It provides empirical evidence to clarify a central issue in business-government relations, i.e., the atomistic or collective nature of corporate political activity. 2. It introduces a rigorous mathematical technique to the business-government relations discipline. 3. It indirectly addresses an ongoing scholarly debate over the role of interest groups in a democracy. 4. It indirectly addresses the current public policy debate over campaign finance reform.


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