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Corporate Political Connections: A Multidisciplinary Review

Asper professor publishes co-authored paper in FT50 management journal

February 24, 2023 — 

In January 2023, Republicans ramp up investigation of Biden family over allegations his family members used their connections to power to help business partners and themselves for profit. It is just the tip of the iceberg of the expanding and evolving connections between firms and political actors, or corporate political connections (CPCs), which describe these types of relationships between business and politics.

If we want to understand the impact of these relationships, we need an effective framework, which can help researchers develop questions and choose appropriate methods to answer them. While research on CPCs has increased rapidly in multiple disciplines in past decades, this body of research remains rather fragmented within the confines of each discipline.

Yifan Wei, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Asper School of Business, and co-authors Nan Jia (University of Southern California) and Jean-Philippe Bonardi (University of Lausanne) recognized the need to clearly define CPCs amid this increase.

Wei’s piece, “Corporate Political Connections: A Multidisciplinary Review” identifies the vast increase in research about CPCs in multiple disciplines and highlights the need for a consistent and comprehensive framework for understanding current research and developing future research. The review article is published in the Journal of Management, an FT50 publication committed to publishing work that has a high impact on the field of management.

To develop this framework, Wei and co-authors combed through 30 years of research in 24 leading management, economics and finance, political science and sociology journals to collect 269 articles with which they conducted their review.

The result of this extensive research process is “a focused, comprehensive, and theoretically deep review of the rapidly growing but disparate literature on CPCs” across fields and approaches. The review differentiates CPCs from other political activities like lobbying or campaign contributions. Compared to lobbying, for instance, CPCs name a longer and more involved commitment between the firm and political actor and often involve more informal tactics. The review categorizes existing literature into three groups: the conceptualization of CPCs, the antecedents to CPCs and the outcomes of CPCs.

While providing a detailed account of existing literature on CPCs, helpful to any scholar or student who might pursue this topic, Wei and co-authors also point to the potential research that might emerge thanks to their framework.

For instance, they identify a gap in the existing research: few studies of CPCs examine the relationship from the side of the political actors and instead mainly focus on the firm’s interests and motivations; they focus more on CEOs than city councilors. Given the fact that these connections are just that—connections between at least two participants—both sides must be studied as part of the exchange.

Beyond the article’s prestigious publication, Wei’s work demonstrates an investment in positively influencing academic inquiry. The framework Wei and co-authors offer does the important work of pausing to taking stock of a rapidly changing field. They take a moment to determine what it is we know in order to imagine what we could and should learn.


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