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Market-based Lobbying: Evidence from Advertising Spending in Italy

  • Stefano DellaVigna
  • Ruben Durante
  • Brian Knight
  • Eliana La Ferrara

An extensive literature has studied lobbying by special interest groups. We analyze a novel lobbying channel: lobbying businessmen-politicians through business proxies. When a politician controls a business, firms attempting to curry favors shift their spending towards the politician's business. The politician benefits from increased revenues, and the firms hope for favorable regulation in return. We investigate this channel in Italy where government members, including the prime minister, are not required to divest business holdings. We examine the evolution of advertising spending by firms over the period 1994 to 2009, during which Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister on and off three times, while maintaining control of Italy's major private television network, Mediaset. We predict that firms attempting to curry favor with the government shift their advertising budget towards Berlusconi's channels when Berlusconi is in power. Indeed, we document a significant pro-Mediaset bias in the allocation of advertising spending during Berlusconi's political tenure. This pattern is especially pronounced for companies operating in more regulated sectors, as predicted. Using a model of supply and demand in the advertising market, we estimate one billion euros of extra revenue to Berlusconi's group. We also estimate the expected returns in regulation to politically motivated spenders of similar magnitude, stressing the economic importance of this lobbying channel. These findings provide an additional rationale for rules on conflict of interest.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19766.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19766
Note: IO LE LS PE POL
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  1. Valentino Larcinese & Riccardo Puglisi & James M. Snyder (Jr.), 2007. "Partisan bias in economic news: evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of U.S. newspapers," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25185, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  10. Pablo Querubin & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2011. "The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850-1880," NBER Working Papers 17634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Renaud Coulomb & Marc Sangnier, 2014. "The Impact of Political Majorities on Firm Value: Do Electoral Promises or Friendship Connections Matter?," AMSE Working Papers 1414, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised May 2014.
  12. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221, February.
  13. Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Atif Mian, 2005. "Do Lenders Favor Politically Connected Firms? Rent Provision in an Emerging Financial Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1371-1411, November.
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  16. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00671405 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Raymond Fisman, 2001. "Estimating the Value of Political Connections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1095-1102, September.
  18. Stephen Ansolabehere & John M. de Figueiredo & James M. Snyder Jr, 2003. "Why is There so Little Money in U.S. Politics?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 105-130, Winter.
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