Greasing the Skids: How Corporate Elite Campaign Donations Shape State-Level Collective Bargaining Legislation
Jacobs, Anna Weller
Presidential candidates have devoted a surprising amount of attention to the influence of large corporate donors and super PACs in the current election cycle. The general concern is that corporate campaign financing leaves politicians bound to elite interests. Although the association between corporate donations and legislative behavior is intuitive and theoretically appealing, empirical support for this link is mixed. I examine the effects of corporate financing on the proposal and passage of state-level labor legislation. I employ a unique combination of data on (a) all proposed state-level collective bargaining bills that were proposed in 2012, (b) financial contributions to all state legislators’ most recent campaigns, (c) the institutional structure of each state legislative chamber, and (d) state constituent characteristics. Results obtained from ordinary least squares and negative binomial regressions indicate that legislators are more likely to propose and pass anti-labor laws in states with greater corporate elite campaign financing. Counterfactual mediation analyses show that the association between corporate contributions and the passage of anti-labor law is fully mediated by the number of anti-labor bill proposals. Moderation analyses demonstrate that the effect of corporate donations on anti-labor law is more pronounced in labor-friendly states. Elite class dominance theory is supported by the principal finding that corporations strategically manipulate state political institutions to undermine labor.