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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lobbying in the dark? : the effects of policy-making transparency on interest group lobbying strategies in France and Sweden

  • Author(s): Matthews Luxon, Emily Olivia
  • et al.

Policy makers need information about the potential consequences of their policies; this provides an opening for interest groups, who have on-the-ground information about likely outcomes if those policies are implemented. However, we cannot simply assume that interest groups also have information about what is going on in the policy process and what policy makers actually need at any given moment, especially since such information is not necessarily automatically available, nor easy to gather, even for actors with formal roles in the policy process. Thus, I argue that the transparency of the policy process is a critical variable for understanding interest group lobbying behavior. Specifically, I define transparency as the release of actionable information during the policy process; for transparency to be useful to interest groups, information about that process must be released before it is needed to make strategic decisions. In a high- transparency policy process, information is released early and systematically; groups, then, can be reasonably certain they know what is going on and can pursue ad hoc lobbying strategies on a case-by-case basis. A low- transparency process, on the other hand, releases its information at the discretion of policy-makers; while some groups may get some information, they have no guarantee that they have all the information they need at any given moment. Thus, these groups will need to pursue mitigating strategies to avoid the costs of making lobbying decisions under uncertainty. Using interviews, content analysis, and a case study, I compare the lobbying strategies of interest groups active in forestry policy in low- transparency France and high-transparency Sweden. These comparisons show that groups adapt their strategies to the level of transparency in their countries. Swedish groups pursue ad-hoc strategies, selecting lobbying actions on a case-by-case basis, with little concern for costly lobbying errors or last-minute policy surprises. French groups, on the other hand, pursue strategies to increase their chances of getting information about the policy process; to decrease their chances of making costly lobbying errors; and to increase their chances of responding effectively to last-minute policy surprises

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