Interest Groups and Strange Bedfellows — oh, and the Democrats Are Not More “Fractured” Than Republicans

Aug 24 '09

Many have noticed, and been surprised by, the partnership between the SEIU, Pharma, the AMA, and a few others to support health care reform. But is this a surprise? Some new research (gated; ungated) by Matt Grossmann and Casey Dominguez suggests otherwise.

bq. Patterns of interest group ties resemble two competing party coalitions in elections but not in legislative debate. Campaign endorsement and financial contribution ties among interest groups are consistently correlated but legislative ties do not follow directly from electoral alliances…interest groups have distinct incentives to join together in a party coalition in elections but also to build bipartisan grand coalitions to pursue legislative goals.

Grossmann and Dominguez argue that legislative process introduces multiple considerations that may push interest groups out of their electoral coalitions and into more diverse alliances.

In other words, because groups may support the same policy for different reasons, there is ample room for strange bedfellows.

And on the question of fractures:

bq. The Democratic coalition is not fractured into many small constituencies. The Democratic campaign and legislative networks are denser than equivalent Republican networks, with a core of labor organizations occupying central positions.

Here’s the picture (click to enlarge):