Businessman Candidates: Special-Interest Politics in Weakly Institutionalized Environments

30 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2005

See all articles by Scott Gehlbach

Scott Gehlbach

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: December 2004

Abstract

We initiate examination of the political boundaries of the firm by exploring the phenomenon of 'businessman candidates': business owners and managers who bypass conventional means of political influence to run for public office themselves. We argue that in-house production of political influence will be more likely in institutional environments where candidates find it difficult to make binding campaign promises. When campaign promises are binding, then a businessman may always pay a professional politician to run on the platform that political competition would otherwise compel the businessman to adopt. In contrast, when commitment to a campaign platform is impossible, then candidate identity matters for the policies that will be adopted ex post, implying that a businessman may choose to run for office if the stakes are sufficiently large. We illustrate our arguments through discussion of gubernatorial elections in postcommunist Russia, where businessmen frequently run for public office, institutions to encourage elected officials to keep their campaign promises are weak, and competition for rents is intense.

Keywords: Businessman candidates, elections, citizen candidates, institutions, political economy

JEL Classification: D72, N40, P16, P26

Suggested Citation

Gehlbach, Scott and Sonin, Konstantin, Businessman Candidates: Special-Interest Politics in Weakly Institutionalized Environments (December 2004). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4822. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=702927

Scott Gehlbach

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

1050 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-263-2391 (Phone)

Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Higher School of Economics ( email )

20 Myasnitskaya street
Moscow, 119017
Russia

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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