The Power of Perception: Reconciling Competing Hypotheses About the Influence of NRA Money in Politics

22 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2013

See all articles by Arjun Ponnambalam

Arjun Ponnambalam

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Date Written: October 17, 2013

Abstract

The failure of Congress to enact meaningful gun control legislation despite overwhelming public support in the wake of the 2012 shootings in Newton, CT provides a unique opportunity to examine the influence of money in politics. The suspicion of improper influence arises whenever there is an apparent discrepancy between public opinion and the actions of elected representatives. This paper will explore two competing hypotheses regarding the degree of influence in Congress the National Rifle Association (NRA) has acquired through its political contributions, independent expenditures, and lobbying efforts. Using Lawrence Lessig’s framework of “dependency corruption,” this paper will argue that the influence of NRA money in politics is not as straightforward as it may appear, but that ultimately, the actual nature of the dependency between Congress and the NRA is less important than the fact that both public citizens and elected officials perceive that there is a dependency. This perception is sufficient to undermine public trust in Congress and distort the formulation of public policy.

Keywords: Institutional Corruption, Gun control, NRA, money in politics

Suggested Citation

Ponnambalam, Arjun, The Power of Perception: Reconciling Competing Hypotheses About the Influence of NRA Money in Politics (October 17, 2013). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2341790 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2341790

Arjun Ponnambalam (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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