Investigating the Political Donations of the Corporate Elite from 1980 to 2014

Awarded Scholars:
Jennifer Heerwig, Stony Brook University
Joshua Murray, Vanderbilt University
Project Date:
Aug 2015
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Corporate elites enjoy a privileged place in the policymaking process as stewards of billions of dollars in economic assets; they also represent a source of tax revenues. As campaign finance laws have recently been interpreted by the Supreme Court, the influence of wealthy corporate donors may have increased. Thus, it is important to gain a systematic and historically-grounded understanding of corporate elite political behavior.

Sociologists Jennifer Heerwig and Joshua Murray will create the first continuous, standardized, bi-annual database of all executives and directors of the largest publicly-traded corporations between 1980 and 2014. They will merge this data set with the Longitudinal Elite Contributor Database (LECD)—a database developed by Heerwig that contains all political donations over $200 from individual contributors to candidates, parties, and political action committees in federal elections from 1980 through 2008—to create the tentatively-named Executive LECD. The new database will enable analyses that examine changes in the political alignments of corporate elites as well as the subset of individuals who hold two or more directorships, the corporate “inner circle.” In addition, the database will allow Heerwig and Murray to measure the unique contribution of several variables—including multiple directorships, network centrality, and affiliations with financial institutions—to the political alignments and degree of unity among corporate elites.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.