Political Capital in the 21st Century: Presidential Grassroots Lobbying Organizations in the Obama Administration
47 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2014 Last revised: 3 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 1, 2016
This paper advances the study of presidential/executive leadership by considering the ability of presidents to cheaply use personal grassroots lobbying organizations, such as GOP Team Leader, or Organizing for America/Organizing for Action (OFA), to mobilize their core constituencies for policy purposes using the Internet and associated digital tools. Presidential grassroots lobbying organizations (PGLOs) may be used to advance the president's policy objectives by mobilizing primary voters and activists to send signals to legislators about the organizational capital which may be used to support allies (or undermine opponents) in future elections. Under the assumption that PGLO activity will be more common when such grassroots lobbying emails will be more cost-effective, we argue that grassroots lobbying will be more common under unified government, following a president's last congressional election, and with increased Internet use, but decrease as federal elections approach in the first six years of a president's term. We find support for these hypotheses in data obtained from grassroots lobbying emails sent by Organizing for America/Organizing for Action to members since early 2009. These findings illustrate the strong potential for PGLOs to help presidents exert leadership within their parties, but the limitations of digital tools when targeting opposition legislators.
Keywords: public presidency, lobbying, presidency, congress, OFA
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