Enter Donor Groups: Analyzing the Impact of a New Class of Political Groups

  • Klitgaard, Michael Baggesen (PI)

Project: Research

Project Details


After years of lobbying by the group Growth in Generations, the Danish government decided in 2017 to reduce the estate tax imposed on family-owned companies. Surprisingly, Growth in Gen-erations does not figure among nearly 4,000 groups registered by the most recent larger project on Danish interest groups (http://interarena.dk/). Probably because it belongs to a new class of groups that emerged after the 1980s and proliferated in the two recent decades; think-tanks, specific advo-cacy groups, and fundraising groups attached to political parties. Their existence is not unnoticed (Arnfred & Jessen 2016; Larsen et al. 2016; Ørsten & Kristensen 2016), but scientific knowledge about their political impact and policy influence is non-existent. Thus, this project applies compara-tive case-study methodology on a sample of strategically selected policy reforms to answer the fol-lowing question: What are the policy implications of the entrance of the new class of groups to the political terrain? The project suggests the new groups to excel primarily in subterranean politics of low public visibility (cf. Mettler 2010; Culpepper 2011). To research this, a novel analytical model distinguishing between political constituency groups and political donor groups is introduced. The influence of constituency groups depends on whom and how many they represent, whereas donor groups achieve influence in return for what and how much they donate or invest in politics.
The non-registration of Growth in Generations is a sign of a theoretical lacuna in existing interest group research. This project’s introduction of a theoretical model designed deliberately to fill the gap opens in effect a new avenue in the analysis of organized politics in Scandinavia and beyond. The project contributes further by evaluating empirically if and how the often moneyed interests of donor groups are translated into political influence. Growing economic inequality – partly a result of government policy (OECD 2011) – may exacerbate disparities in voice and influence (Jacobs & Skocpol eds. 2005) which again can be accelerated by growing influence of political donor groups.

Layman's description

Effective start/end date01/11/201831/10/2021