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Market-based Lobbying: Evidence from Advertising Spending in Italy

Author

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano DellaVigna & Ruben Durante & Brian Knight & Eliana La Ferrara, 2013. "Market-based Lobbying: Evidence from Advertising Spending in Italy," NBER Working Papers 19766, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19766
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Laurent Bouton & Micael Castanheira & Allan Drazen, 2018. "A Theory of Small Campaign Contributions," NBER Working Papers 24413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Casarico, Alessandra & Tonin, Mirco, 2018. "Pay-What-You-Want to Support Independent Information: A Field Experiment on Motivation," IZA Discussion Papers 11366, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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