Lobbying America

Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

Benjamin C. Waterhouse
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Lobbying America
    Book Description:

    Lobbying Americatells the story of the political mobilization of American business in the 1970s and 1980s. Benjamin Waterhouse traces the rise and ultimate fragmentation of a broad-based effort to unify the business community and promote a fiscally conservative, antiregulatory, and market-oriented policy agenda to Congress and the country at large. Arguing that business's political involvement was historically distinctive during this period, Waterhouse illustrates the changing power and goals of America's top corporate leaders.

    Examining the rise of the Business Roundtable and the revitalization of older business associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Waterhouse takes readers inside the mind-set of the powerful CEOs who responded to the crises of inflation, recession, and declining industrial productivity by organizing an effective and disciplined lobbying force. By the mid-1970s, that coalition transformed the economic power of the capitalist class into a broad-reaching political movement with real policy consequences. Ironically, the cohesion that characterized organized business failed to survive the ascent of conservative politics during the 1980s, and many of the coalition's top goals on regulatory and fiscal policies remained unfulfilled. The industrial CEOs who fancied themselves the "voice of business" found themselves one voice among many vying for influence in an increasingly turbulent and unsettled economic landscape.

    Complicating assumptions that wealthy business leaders naturally get their way in Washington,Lobbying Americashows how economic and political powers interact in the American democratic system.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4817-1
    Subjects: History, Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: American Business, American Politics
    (pp. 1-13)

    In the summer of 2011, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination stumped for votes in Iowa. A founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital, Mitt Romney was one of the wealthiest men ever to seek the nation’s highest office, and he campaigned vigorously on the strength of his private sector know-how. Boasting only limited experience in electoral politics—a four-year stint as governor of Massachusetts that followed a failed run for Senate—Romney embodied a longstanding hope in American politics: that a businessman turned statesman could cut through the morass of ideology and infighting to restore prosperity to...

  5. CHAPTER 1 From Consensus to a Crisis of Confidence
    (pp. 14-45)

    Businesspeople should have been happy. The American economy soared during the 1960s, and in 1969 a Republican named Richard Nixon assumed the presidency, promising peace, prosperity, and a retreat from his predecessors’ “big government” policies. Yet despite that apparently sunny forecast, a collective sense of woe descended across the American business community as the 1970s dawned. Subdued in nervous whispers at first, the ominous refrain grew louder, echoing through boardrooms and conference centers, across golf courses and country clubs. By the middle of the decade, the once-low grumbling reached a fevered pitch, and despondent business leaders let loose a cacophonous...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A New Life for Old Lobbies
    (pp. 46-75)

    In September 1976, during the brief window between the hoopla surrounding the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence and the hotly contested presidential election in which Jimmy Carter ran Gerald Ford out of office, the 108-member board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) held a meeting in Colorado Springs to debate nothing less than the future of their eighty-year-old organization. Three months earlier, the NAM’s president, Doug Kenna, had triumphantly announced an agreement to merge with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and create the “National Association for Commerce and Industry.” The combined strength of this proposed super-lobby...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Birth of the Business Roundtable
    (pp. 76-105)

    The Links Club is one of New York City’s most exclusive and elite social organizations. Although officially a golf club and a part of the United States Golf Association, it has no course of its own but occupies a stately four-story brick townhouse between Park and Madison, two blocks east of Central Park. The building, located at 36 East 62nd Street, was built in 1890, and the Links Club took up residence upon its founding in 1916 by Charles Blair Macdonald, a golf booster and course architect. The club’s first members were Macdonald’s close friends, members of the Progressive Era...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Business, Labor, and the Politics of Inflation
    (pp. 106-139)

    Since the 1920s, the United States Chamber of Commerce has occupied a grand three-story limestone building straight across Lafayette Square from the White House, in the heart of Washington, D.C.¹ On January 20, 1972, this stately headquarters on H Street, half a city block on all sides and encircled by Corinthian columns, hosted the Chamber’s annual Association National Affairs Conference, an opportunity for Chamber members to discuss national political issues and their role in policymaking. In the realm of national politics, the 1,200 corporate executives and trade association representatives who convened in Washington that winter day certainly had plenty to...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Producer versus the Consumer
    (pp. 140-173)

    American television viewers tuned to NBC around midnight on Saturday, December 11, 1976, would have encountered what appeared to be the holiday edition of a low-budget talk show called “Consumer Probe.” That night’s guest, Irwin Mainway of Mainway Toys, cut the perfect swath as a stereotypical greasy and unscrupulous businessman, complete with a dark three-piece suit, aviator sunglasses, a thin mustache, and a thick Chicago accent. The show’s host, a somewhat indignant and self-righteous consumer advocate, took Mainway to task for what she called the “unsafe toys for children” that his company manufactured and marketed. The litany of questionable products...

    (pp. 174-200)

    The Business Roundtable helped define corporate lobbying in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, but for twenty years the group also maintained an office in New York City, where it kept its administrative and strategic planning functions geographically separate from its lobbying. From its prehistory at the Links Club on 62nd Street, the Roundtable bounced around Manhattan’s hot real estate locations, including stints on Wall Street, Broad Street, and Lexington Avenue. From 1978 until its final move south in 1993, member CEOs and professional staff members, particularly those who worked on nonlobbying issues like construction industry negotiations, occupied a posh suite...

  11. CHAPTER 7 A Tale of Two Tax Cuts
    (pp. 201-228)

    By the end of the 1970s, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States had much to brag about. “Business people are increasingly recognizing the need for both legislative and political action at the grass roots—and improving their effectiveness at both,” the group crowed in 1980. For example, despite predictions that the Congress elected in the fall of 1974, right after Watergate, would be “overwhelmingly liberal and anti-business,” the Chamber declared victory on two-thirds of the 71 policy issues it tackled in 1975 and 1976. The 95th Congress elected along with Jimmy Carter in 1976, it continued, “brought no...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Every Man His Own Lobbyist
    (pp. 229-254)

    For Charls E. Walker, by many accounts the most influential corporate lobbyist in the nation’s capital, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was a major failure. For more than a decade, the balding and bejowled economist had flexed his political muscles on behalf of industrial clients that included Ford, U.S. Steel, and Proctor & Gamble. A former deputy secretary of treasury under Nixon, Walker served on the frontlines of industry’s campaign for accelerated depreciation, largely through his corporate-funded think tank, the American Council for Capital Formation. In 1978 he helped organize the “Carlton Group,” a cohort of corporate lobbyists that met...

  13. EPILOGUE: American Politics, American Business
    (pp. 255-264)

    On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5–4 decision in the case ofCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission, inflaming anew a classic debate over the place of business in American politics. The five justices in the majority, all conservatives appointed by Republican presidents, held that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech prohibited Congress from limiting political campaign advertising, or “electioneering communication,” by incorporated for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. At a stroke, the ruling appeared to undercut a century’s worth of legislation, from the 1907 Tillman Act to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance (McCain-Feingold) Act,...

  14. Abbreviations
    (pp. 265-266)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 267-310)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-324)
  17. Index
    (pp. 325-346)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 347-350)