Win the Battleground to Win the Battle: Essays on Punctuated Equilibrium Theory and Interest Group Venue Shopping
McNeese, Marvin R.
Stein, Robert M
Doctor of Philosophy
Campaign finance research examines how interest groups advocate for policy using money, while punctuated equilibrium theory focuses on their informational appeals. Yet all of this activity happens in the context of the multiple political venues of the U.S. government. This dissertation asks what independent affect do political venues have relative to one another on an interest group’s policy success, and whether interest groups strategically choose venues accordingly. The dissertation argues for a more precise definition of political venue as “single, autonomous a single, autonomous, political institution imbued with sufficient legal authority to direct the coercive power of government to distinguish between actors who are determine policy enactments from those who only influence them. It theorizes that the systematic variation in legal supremacy (i.e. authority), barriers to access, and information and bargaining costs (i.e. transaction costs) arrays U.S. political venues in an hierarchical order in terms of their utility to interest groups petitioning for their preferred policy alternatives. It uses a well-received dataset of interest group lobbying activity on a random set of issues at the Federal level from 1999-2002 to find support for its prediction that interest groups are most likely to petition the next higher venue when seeking to change the status quo policy. Tests on that same dataset reveal that the shift of policymaking to a higher political venue changes the outlook for policy success most and negatively for groups defending the status quo and otherwise makes it most likely that interest groups will win all or nothing of their preferred policies. The final analysis follows the debate on hydraulic fracturing through coverage in 20 national and regional newspapers from January 2007 through June 2013 to predict that a punctuated change in policy is not likely without the various stakeholders arriving at a grand compromise later codified by policymakers. This sets the stage for later analysis examining policymaking observed during the period can be explained by which political venues produced the enactment.
Punctuated Equilibrium Theory; Interest Groups; Venue Shopping