Photo: Wally Gobetz/ Flickr

In our American oligarchy, political influence is, broadly speaking, for sale. A new study confirms a straightforward relationship between corporate lobbying and higher profits.

The study, by researchers at Indiana University, attempts to clarify mixed findings on whether or not spending money on lobbying actually results in positive returns for corporate shareholders. It does:

We first re-examine results in prior research and test whether total lobbying expenditures are associated with abnormal stock returns. We find a positive and marginally significant association, consistent with corporate lobbying activities typically generating higher firm values

The paper then examines corporate lobbying in each of nine separate policy areas, and finds that only one of them seems to be a bad investment. Bolding ours:

Across the nine separate regressions we find that tax-, defense-, trade-, and federal budget-related lobbying are associated with significant and positive abnormal stock returns, while lobbying on environmental issues is associated with significant and negative abnormal returns. The returns to lobbying for the four remaining lobbying issues (i.e., energy, healthcare, Medicare / Medicaid, and transportation) are not significant. Taken together, our evidence is generally consistent with the strategic investment view of corporate lobbying, since we find negative returns to lobbying for just one lobbying issue (i.e., environment-related lobbying)

All in all, the study confirms what “cynical” types consider to be common sense: in a political system in which influence can be bought, it is only rational for corporations—machines for making money—to invest money in shaping the political system to maximize their own profits.

The fact that this warps the entire political system for the majority of people is of little importance. The majority of people don’t have enough money to matter.

[The full study]