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Corporate Politics

Tan Nguyen

The power elite, largely through their influence in the area of research and their use of 'policy planning groups' are able to shape, and in some cases, create public policy.

Domhoff also points out that "corporate leaders have personal contact with both appointed and elected officials as members of the two policy organizations with the most access to government, the Business Council and the Business Roundtable(1)."  It is through this contact that corporate leaders are once again able to influence the decision making process of political officials.  This personal contact is something that the masses do not have access to.  As a result, their voices are seldom heard.  This personal contact between corporate leaders and the government extends all the way to the presidency.  Domhoff believes that corporate leaders serve as informal advisers to the President during foreign policy crises(2).  Dye echoes this statement, and points to the fact that David Rockefeller of the Rockefeller dynasty, was "personally involved in Nixon's arrangement of détente with the USSR, the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), and the 'normalization' of U.S. relations with the mainland of the People's Republic of China(3)."  Once again, a member of the corporate upper class is able to do something that the masses cannot: influence government policy.

In his "oligarchic model of national policy-making", Dye is able to further demonstrate the influence that the corporate upper class exerts over our government's decision making process. In the first step of this model, corporate and personal wealth provide the monetary resources necessary for research, study, planning, and formulation of national policy(4).  Not all research is objective. Many of these individuals or corporations fund biased research in order to arrive at conclusions that will support their desired policies.  In fact, many of these individuals play a direct role in the research process, ensuring that it cannot be entirely objective.  After all, "corporate presidents, directors, and top wealth-holders also sit on the governing boards of the foundations, universities, and policy-planning groups to oversee the spending of their funds(5)."  The vast majority of Americans simply lack the financial resources needed to command the same kind of influence.  Democracy is weakened in the name of corporate interest, and the power that was formerly reserved for the people continues to belong to a select few.

The corporate upper class is further aided in its domination of national policy making by forming 'policy-planning groups'.  According to Dye, these groups "bring together people at the top of the corporate and financial institutions, the universities, the foundations, the mass media, the powerful law firms, the top intellectuals, and influential figures in the government(6)."  Their purpose is to review university or foundation supported research, and to reach a consensus about what action should be taken regarding the problems that they have studied(7).  The policy-planning groups then formulate action  recommendations, "explicit policies or programs designed to resolve or ameliorate national problems(8)."  These recommendations are then circulated to the mass media, federal executive agencies, and Congress.  In this way the policy-planning groups influence national policy by attracting public attention to their recommendations(9).  Again the point of view of the masses is rarely represented.  Those that make up the policy-planning groups can hardly be considered representative of the 'average citizen'.

These policy planning groups further influence national policy by preparing legislation for congress.  Dye points out that "before the results of government-sponsored research are available, federal executive agencies, with the assistance of policy-planning groups, will prepare legislation for Congress to implement policy decisions.  Particular versions of bills will pass between executive agencies, the White House, policy-planning groups, and the professional staffs of the congressional committees that eventually will consider the bills"(10).  Not only are they influencing national policy, they are, essentially, writing it.  And while this process continues unabated, democracy continues to weaken.

(1) Domhoff, William.  534.  (2) Domhoff, William.  534.  (3) Dye, Thomas  165, (1995).    (4) Dye, Thomas  221, (1995).  (5) Dye, Thomas  221, (1995).   (6) Dye, Thomas  222, (1995).   (7) Dye, Thomas  222, (1995).  (8) Dye, Thomas  222, (1995).  (9) Dye, Thomas  222, (1995).  (10) Dye, Thomas  222, (1995).