Skip to main content

Biased access? Exploring selection to advisory committees

  • Anne Rasmussen (a1) (a2) and Vlad Gross (a3)

The existing literature on bias in interest group access faces the challenge that there is often no clear benchmark for judging whether a given distribution of interest groups involved in policy making is biased. To tackle this challenge, we link two new data sets on registered European Union (EU) interest groups and membership of the advisory committees of the European Commission and examine the factors affecting selection to these committees. Our approach allows us to qualify the conclusions of the existing literature. We see that, even if business interests dominate advisory committees, they are not generally privileged over other group types in the selection processes and their degree of access varies considerably between policy areas. Instead, supranational interest groups enjoy selection privileges, which are particularly pronounced on permanent committees. Finally, we find some evidence that, even though lobbying budgets are important for getting access, their value varies across group types. In this way, our study has implications for future theory building on resource exchanges between interest group types and decision makers.

Corresponding author
Hide All
ALTER-EU (2008), ‘Secrecy and corporate dominance – a study of the composition and transparency of European Commission expert groups’, Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the European Union, Brussels. Retrieved 15 April 2014 from
ALTER-EU (2012), ‘Dodgy data: time to fix the EU’s Transparency Register’. Retrieved 15 April 2014 from
Balla, S.J. and Wright, J.R. (2001), ‘Interest groups, advisory committees, and congressional control of the bureaucracy’, American Journal of Political Science 45: 799812.
Baumgartner, F.R. and Leech, B.L. (1998), Basic Interests: The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Baumgartner, F.R. and Leech, B.L. (2001), ‘Interest niches and policy bandwagons: patterns of interest group involvement in national politics’, The Journal of Politics 63: 11911213.
Baumgartner, F.R., Berry, J.M., Hojnacki, M., Kimball, D.C. and Leech, B. (2009), Lobbying and Policy Change, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Berkhout, J. and Lowery, D. (2008), ‘Counting organized interests in the European Union: a comparison of data sources’, Journal of European Public Policy 15: 489513.
Berkhout, J. and Lowery, D. (2010), ‘The changing demography of the EU interest system since 1990’, European Union Politics 11: 447461.
Bouwen, P. (2002a), ‘A comparative study of business lobbying in the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Ministers’, MPIfG Discussion Paper, MPIfG, Cologne, Germany.
Bouwen, P. (2002b), ‘Corporate lobbying in the European Union: the logic of access’, Journal of European Public Policy 9: 365390.
Bouwen, P. (2004), ‘Exchanging access goods for access: a comparative study of business lobbying in the European Union institutions’, European Journal of Political Research 43: 337369.
Broscheid, A. and Coen, D. (2003), ‘Insider and outsider lobbying of the European Commission – an informational model of forum politics’, European Union Politics 4: 165189.
Chalmers, A.W. (2013), ‘Getting a seat at the table: capital and capture and expert groups in the European Union’, West European Politics 37: 976992.
Chari, R.S., Murphy, G. and Hogan, J. (2007), ‘Regulating lobbyists: a comparative analysis of the United States, Canada, Germany and the European Union’, Political Quarterly 78: 422438.
Coen, D. (1998), ‘The European business interest and the nation state: large-firm lobbying in the European Union and member states’, Journal of Public Policy 18: 75100.
Danielian, L.H. and Page, B.I. (1994), ‘The heavenly chorus: interest group voices on TV news’, American Journal of Political Science 38: 10561078.
Domhoff, G.W. (1998), Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000, Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
Drew, E. (1999), The Corruption of American Politics, Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press.
Dunleavy, P. and O’Leary, B. (1987), Theories of the State: The Politics of Liberal Democracy, London: Macmillan.
Dür, A. (2008), ‘Interest groups in the European Union: how powerful are they?’, West European Politics 31: 12121230.
Easton, D. (1971), Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science, New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Eising, R. (2007), ‘Institutional context, organizational resources and strategic choices’, European Union Politics 8: 329362.
European Commission (2001), ‘European governance’, a White Paper, COM(2001)428, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2002), ‘Towards a reinforced culture of consultation and dialogue – general principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties by the commission’, COM(2002)704, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2009), ‘Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council European – transparency initiative: the register of interest representatives, one year after’, COM(2009)612, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2010a), ‘Commission staff working document. Accompanying document to the communication from the President. Framework for Commission expert groups: horizontal rules and public register’, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2010b), ‘Communication from the President to the Commission: framework for Commission expert groups: horizontal rules and public register’, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission (2013), ‘Transparency Register grows 10% with more quality checks than ever before, annual report shows’, Press release IP/13/29/11/2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013 from
European Commission and European Parliament (2011), ‘Agreement between the European Parliament and the European Commission on the establishment of a Transparency Register for organisations and self employed individuals engaged in EU policy-making and policy implementation’, Official Journal of the European Union 191: 29--38.
Falkner, G. and Treib, O. (2008), ‘Three worlds of compliance or four? The EU-15 compared to new member states’, Journal of Common Market Studies 46: 293313.
Gaffney, J. (1996), Political Parties and the European Union, London: Routledge.
Gais, T. (1996), Improper Influence: Campaign Finance Law, Political Interest Groups, and the Problem of Equality, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Gerber, E.R. (1999), The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gornitzka, Å. and Sverdrup, U. (2008), ‘Who consults? The configuration of expert groups in the European Union’, West European Politics 31: 725750.
Gornitzka, Å. and Sverdrup, U. (2010), ‘Access of experts: information and EU decision-making’, West European Politics 34: 4870.
Gray, V. and Lowery, D. (2001), ‘The institutionalization of state communities of organized interests’, Political Research Quarterly 54: 265284.
Greenwood, J. (2011), Interest Representation in the European Union, London: Palgrave.
Greenwood, J. and Dreger, J. (2013), ‘The Transparency Register: a European vanguard of strong lobby regulation?’, Interest Groups and Advocacy 2(2): 139162.
Haas, E.B. (1958), The Uniting of Europe, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hall, R.L. and Wayman, F.W. (1990), ‘Buying time: moneyed interests and the mobilization of bias in congressional committees’, American Political Science Review 84: 797820.
Hix, S. (2005), The Political System of the European Union, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hull, R. (1993), ‘Lobbying Brussels: a view from within’, in S. Mazey and J. Richardson (eds), Lobbying in the European Community, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 8292.
Karty, K.D. (2002), ‘Closure and capture in Federal Advisory Committees’, Business and Politics 4: 213238.
Katzenstein, P.J. (1984), Corporatism and Change: Austria, Switzerland, and the Politics of Industry, Cornell: Cornell University Press.
Katzenstein, P.J. (1985), Small States in World Markets: Industrial Policy in Europe, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Kohler-Koch, B. (1994), ‘Changing patterns of interest intermediation in the European Union’, Government and Opposition 29: 166180.
Kohler-Koch, B. (2010), ‘What can Canada and the European Union learn from each other?’, Speaking notes prepared for the Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue (CETD) Symposium ‘Democracy and Participation’, University of Victoria, April 28–29, Victoria, Canada.
Larsson, T. (2003), ‘Precooking the European Union: the world of expert groups’, ESO Report No. 2003:16, Expert Group on Public Finance, Stockholm.
Larsson, T. and Murk, J. (2007), ‘The Commission’s relations with expert advisory groups’, in T. Christiansen and T. Larsson (eds), The Role of Committees in the Policy-Process of the European Union: Legislation, Implementation and Deliberation, Cheltenham Gloucestershire: Edward Elgar, pp. 64--95.
Lehmann, W. and Bosche, L. (2003), ‘Lobbying in the European Union: current rules and practices’, European Union, European Parliament, Brussels.
Leyden, K.M. (1995), ‘Interest group resources and testimony at congressional hearings’, Legislative Studies Quarterly 20: 431439.
Lindberg, B., Rasmussen, A. and Warntjen, A. (1998), ‘Party politics as usual? The role of political parties in EU legislative decision-making’, Journal of European Public Policy 15(8): 11071126.
Lindblom, C. (1977), Politics and Markets, New York, NY: Basic Books.
Long, S.J. and Freese, J. (2001), Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata, College Station, TX: Stata Press.
Lowery, D. and Brasher, H. (2004), Organized Interests and American Government, New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Lowery, D. and Gray, V. (2004), ‘Bias in the heavenly chorus’, Journal of Theoretical Politics 16: 529.
Lowi, T.J. (1972), ‘Four systems of policy, politics, and choice’, Public Administration Review 32: 298310.
Mahoney, C. (2004), ‘The power of institutions: state and interest group activity in the European Union’, European Union Politics 5: 441466.
Mahoney, C. and Beckstrand, M.J. (2011), ‘Following the money: European Union funding of civil society organizations’, Journal of Common Market Studies 49: 13391361.
Majone, G. (1996), Regulating Europe, London: Routledge.
Malone, M.M. (2004), Regulation of Lobbyists in Developed Countries: Current Rules and Practices, Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.
McLaughlin, A.M. and Greenwood, J. (1995), ‘The management of interest representation in the European Union’, Journal of Common Market Studies 33: 143156.
Messer, A., Berkhout, J. and Lowery, D. (2011), ‘The density of the EU interest system: a test of the ESA model’, British Journal of Political Science 41: 161190.
Metz, J. (2013), ‘Expert groups in the European Union: a sui generis phenomenon?’, Policy and Society 32: 267278.
Michalowitz, I. (2004), EU Lobbying: Principals, Agents and Targets: Strategic Interest Intermediation in EU Policy-Making, Berlin, Germany: LIT-Verlag.
Mihut, L. (2008), ‘Lobbying in the United States and the European Union: new developments in lobbying regulation’, Romanian Journal of European Affairs 8: 117.
Olson, M. (1971), The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Peters, B.G. (2001), The Politics of Bureaucracy, London: Routledge.
Pleines, H. (ed.) (2006), Participation of Civil Society in New Modes of Governance: The Case of the New EU Member States, Bremen: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa.
Putnam, R.D. (1993), Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Quittkat, C. (2011), ‘The European Commission’s online consultations: a success story?’, Journal of Common Market Studies 49: 653674.
Quittkat, C. and Finke, B. (2008), ‘The EU Commission consultation regime’, in B. Kohler-Koch, D.D. Bièvre and W. Maloney (eds), Opening EU-Governance to Civil Society: Gains and Challenges, Connex Report Series 5 Mannheim: Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), pp. 183222.
Rasmussen, A. and Alexandrova, P. (2012), ‘Foreign interests lobbying Brussels: participation of non-EU members in Commission consultations’, Journal of Common Market Studies 50(4): 614631.
Rasmussen, A. and Carroll, B. (2013), ‘Determinants of upper-class dominance in the heavenly chorus: lessons from European Commission online consultations’, British Journal of Political Science 44: 445459, Firstview. Retrieved from
Rasmussen, A. and Toshkov, D. (2013), ‘The Effect of Stakeholder Involvement: Consultation of External Actors and Legislative Duration’, European Union Politics 14(3): 366387.
Rasmussen, A., Carroll, B. and Lowery, D. (2014), ‘Representatives of the public mood? Public opinion and interest group activity’, European Journal of Political Research 53: 250268.
Roose, D. (1975), ‘Top dogs and top brass: an inside look at a government advisory committee’, The Insurgent Sociologist 5: 5363.
Rozwell, M.J. and Wilcox, C. (1999), Interest Groups in American Campaigns, Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
Salisbury, R.H. (1984), ‘Interest representation: the dominance of institutions’, The American Political Science Review 78: 6476.
Schattschneider, E.E. (1960), The Semisovereign People, New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Schlozman, K.L. (1984), ‘What accent the heavenly chorus? Political equality and the American pressure system’, The Journal of Politics 46: 10061032.
Schlozman, K.L. and Tierney, J.T. (1986), Organized Interests and American Democracy, New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Schlozman, K.L., Verba, S., Brady, H., Jones, P. and Burch, T. (2008), ‘Who sings in the heavenly chorus? Political inequality and the pressure system’. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the APSA 2008 Annual Meeting, Hynes Convention Center, August 28, Boston, MA.
Schmitter, P. (1979), ‘Still the century of corporatism?’, in P. Schmitter and G. Lehbruch (eds), Trends Towards Corporatist Intermediation, New York, NY: Sage, pp. 752.
Schmitter, P. and Lehmbruch, G. (1979), Trends Toward Corporatist Intermediation, London: Sage.
Siaroff, A. (1999), ‘Corporatism in 24 industrial democracies: meaning and measurement’, European Journal of Political Research 36: 175205.
Smith, R.A. (1984), ‘Advocacy, interpretation, and influence in the U.S. Congress’, American Political Science Review 78: 4463.
Streeck, W. and Kenworthy, L. (2005), ‘Theories and practices of neo-corporatism’, in T. Janoski, R.R. Alford, A.M. Hicks and M.A. Schwartz (eds), A Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Societies and Globalization, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, pp. 441460.
Truman, D.B. (1951), The Governmental Process, New York, NY: Knopf.
Williamson, O.E. (1979), ‘Transaction-cost economics: the governance of contractual relations’, Journal of Law and Economics 22: 233261.
Wilson, J.Q. (1974), Political Organizations, New York, NY: Basic Books.
Witko, C. (2009), ‘The ecology of party organized interest relationships’, Polity 41: 211234.
Wonka, A., Baumgartner, F.R., Mahoney, C. and Berkhout, J. (2010), ‘Measuring the size and scope of the EU interest group population’, European Union Politics 11: 463476.
Yackee, J.W. and Yackee, S.W. (2009), ‘Divided government and US federal rulemaking’, Regulation & Governance 3: 128144.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 1755-7739
  • EISSN: 1755-7747
  • URL: /core/journals/european-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Rasmussen and Gross Supplementary Material

 Word (15 KB)
15 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed