Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Business influence on legislation

Thomas Jundt reviews Sarah Elkind's How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (UNC Press, 2011) in the latest issue of Environment and History. Jundt writes:
While other studies have explored national organisations and politics, Elkind focuses on how power was also flowing outward from local business elites to influence both local and national policy. In five case studies centred on a booming Los Angeles from 1920 through the early 1950s, she explores how business associations dominated local politics on environmental issues and influenced federal policy. Because they possessed superior means to frame local discourse, draft legislation, and conduct studies on contentious issues to provide the appearance of an objective basis for the actions of local politicians, business groups successfully insinuated themselves as the voice of the people. Opposition groups simply could not match their resources, public appeal (business provided jobs), or access to officials.

The cases studies, all dealing with business's powerful influence on legislation, include the LA-area legislation to ban seaside oil wells and create public beaches; the thwarting of stringent anti-smog regulations; and the overturning of the federal Water Power Act of 1920 to allow electricity from the Hoover Dam to be sold by private utilities.

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