Here’s the abstract for Arjun Ponnambalm’s (Harvard) The Power of Perception: Reconciling Competing Hypotheses About the Influence of NRA Money in Politics:
The failure of Congress to enact meaningful gun control legislation despite overwhelming public support in the wake of the 2012 shootings in Newton, CT provides a unique opportunity to examine the influence of money in politics. The suspicion of improper influence arises whenever there is an apparent discrepancy between public opinion and the actions of elected representatives. This paper will explore two competing hypotheses regarding the degree of influence in Congress the National Rifle Association (NRA) has acquired through its political contributions, independent expenditures, and lobbying efforts. Using Lawrence Lessig’s framework of “dependency corruption,” this paper will argue that the influence of NRA money in politics is not as straightforward as it may appear, but that ultimately, the actual nature of the dependency between Congress and the NRA is less important than the fact that both public citizens and elected officials perceive that there is a dependency. This perception is sufficient to undermine public trust in Congress and distort the formulation of public policy.