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Beyond the revolving door: Advocacy behavior and social distance to financial regulators

  • Kevin L. Young, Tim Marple and James Heilman

The financial system is governed not just by formal rules but also by social relationships that pervade the elite strata of society. Understanding such dynamics entails understanding complex relational ties between actors, a task that can be facilitated through the use of network analysis. We argue that a latent feature of interest to scholars of the political economy of finance is one of social distance, which is a measurable concept. Using new data from the financial sector, we measure the social distance between a range of financial firms and one key regulator, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), over time to assess whether or not social distance is related to organizations’ advocacy behavior. We find a positive relationship between how close a given organization is to the SEC and how often it engages in advocacy. The result persists when we control for numerous factors related to organizational characteristics, firm size, and when we measure advocacy frequency in different ways.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding Author: Kevin L. Young, Department of Political Science, The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA 01003, e-mail:
Tim Marple, Department of Political Science, The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA 01003
James Heilman, Department of Political Science, The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA 01003
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We would like to thank Elizabeth Sullivan-Hasson, Corinne Curtis, Matthew Winn, Jorge Castro and Piotr Wlodkowski for research assistance on this paper. We also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Russell Sage Foundation grant #83-15-13.

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