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This dissertation focuses on corporate contributions to state-level politicians. Scholars have devoted significant attention to the antecedents of corporate political activity, often invoking resource dependence logic to explain managerial motives. Just as managers seek to protect their firms from dependencies on other firms, so too do they seek to protect their firms from dependencies on government. Resource dependence theory is, indeed, an appropriate tool for understanding some of the antecedents of corporate political activity. However, the application of resource dependence theory in the context of corporate political activity can be improved. Dependence on government has been explained as arising from regulatory intensity faced by the firm (i.e., the degree to which the firm's industry is regulated). The argument for regulatory intensity as a source of dependence is inconsistent with the core logic of resource dependence theory. A firm must have a relationship with a government for any firm dependence on government to exist. A state's regulatory environment does not constitute a relationship with any firm. In this dissertation I argue that it is firm operations in a government's jurisdiction that constitutes a relationship between the firm and the government. Because governments possess tremendous power to influence the institutional environment, firms operating in a government jurisdiction are dependent on that government for a predictable institutional environment. I hypothesize that firm political activity in a state will increase as the firm becomes more dependent on that state as a location for its operations. Furthermore, I hypothesize that factors with the potential for disrupting the institutional environment activate the threat posed by the firm's dependence on the state, thus strengthening the relationship between operational dependence and political donations. I test these hypotheses in a cross-classified multilevel model in which firm-state subsidiaries are nested within 78 firms and the 50 US states. The findings provide strong support for most of the hypotheses. I provide a discussion of the results as well as their impacts on theory and practice, the limitations of the study, and ideas for future research directions.
Institutions, Political Activity, Resource Dependence, Social Movements, Strategic Management
Date of Defense
April 10, 2015.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Information Systems in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Bruce T. Lamont, Professor Directing Dissertation; Jeffery S. Smith, University Representative; R. Michael Holmes, Jr., Committee Member; Chad H. Van Iddekinge, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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