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The Captive or the Broker? Explaining Public Agency–Interest Group Interactions



The literature offers individually valid yet collectively inconsistent hypotheses concerning the nature of public agencies' responsiveness to interest groups. This article analyzes the nature of this responsiveness by examining the brokerage potential of public agencies among interest groups. Such a brokerage potential is hypothesized to follow from agencies' preferences for policy goods as well as the tendency of interest groups to seek access to public agencies. It combines analyses of agencies' demand for policy goods with interest groups preferences for seeking access to specific policy venues. The analyses are based on survey data of national civil servants and interest groups in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands. The findings suggest that both strategic preferences as well as organizational routines positively correlate with a brokerage potential while interaction patterns within and with the organizational environment of public agencies can constrain their brokerage potential in several distinct ways.

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