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Thesis: 'Persuasion Under the Threat of Elections'
Citizens worry about the influence of interest groups in politics and demand more transparency. This concern affects how they vote and, in turn, whether and how interest group influence elected officials. To unpack this tripartite strategic game, I provide a formal theory of lobbying under the threat of elections. I study the importance of two kinds of transparency: lobbying transparency - what voters can know about there being influence - and policy transparency - voters' ability to discern policy successes from failures. I argue that lobbying disclosure regulations help voters make the most of influence: because of their career-concerns, politicians are harder to persuade when voters observe influence. In turn influence materialises with still biased, but more valuable (meaning more truthful) information. Absent any lobbying, policy transparency help align the incumbent's policy and office motives; that is electoral concerns are less likely to distort policy-making. With lobbying, a lack of policy transparency renders incentivising the unpopular pro-lobby policy nearly impossible. Hence policy transparency is rarely desirable under lobbying disclosure. Further, voters can drastically benefit from being non-Bayesians. Holding a pessimistic anti-lobby view makes it extremely valuable for interest groups to engage in influence, while rendering almost impossible any persuasion; this mechanism forces interest groups to be transparent. Finally, I show that under public lobbying interest groups may engage in influence even if it proves useless in the present. By helping incompetent (and easily influenced) politicians stay in office, they can influence policy-making in the future even with the most stringent transparency requirement.
Voter’s Awareness and Informational Lobbying Under the Threat of Elections (working paper)
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