Corporate Political Participation in the United States
Martin, Susan A.
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First, one might question whether it is necessary and desirable for business firms, as a matter of corporate policy, to engage in politics. Secondly, given the fact of corporate political involvement, is such involvement ethically legitimate- "rightful?" Related issues include the manner of corporate political participation, the costs and benefits involved, the objectives of the company, the existence of policy alternatives, and the rationale underlying corporate activities. These issues will be explored in the following pages. Major attention will be focused on the issues of democratic principles and the legitimacy of the corporate pursuit of a place in the political arena. Various theories expanding the ideas sketched above, will be analyzed in terms of their reliability as models for the modern corporate world. Ultimately, it is the purpose of this paper to use a concrete model of corporate political participation as a test to the various hypotheses. Recent experience as an academic intern in General Motors' Civic Involvement Program provided the opportunity to compare methods of participation, informed by the Corporation's philosophy, with the ideas put forth by numerous political scientists. The conclusions I draw are based partly on primary sources, including recent literature, dealing with the topic of corporate political life. The majority of the conclusions, however, are based on personal observations and off-hand managerial comments. It must be stressed that any statements put forth are largely the result of personal conjecture; in no way should my conclusions be held as binding upon GM or the executives quoted.