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The Inside View: Using the Enron E-mail Archive to Understand Corporate Political Attention


  • This article won the 2010 Best Paper Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association. Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association and the Georgetown University Political Economy Working Group (October 19, 2010). The authors gratefully acknowledge comments from Marco Althaus, Frank Baumgartner, and Elizabeth N. Saunders as well as extraordinary research assistance from Robert Biemesderfer, Elina Claveli, Patrick Gavin, William Huang, Douglas Kovel, Gracie Rios, Anton Strezhnev, William Tamplin, and Marzena Zukowska. LSQ editor Sarah Binder and the anonymous reviewers provided incisive comments as well.


For decades, scholars have debated the role of corporations in American politics. To date, they have relied on either interviews or publicly disclosed spending and lobbying reports. This article presents new methods and data that enable us to consider the internal processes of corporate political attention instead. Aided by automated content analysis, this article uses more than 250,000 internal e-mails from Enron to observe its political attention between 1999 and 2002. These e-mails depict Enron's employees as focused on monitoring and formally participating in political processes, including bureaucratic processes. Only a small fraction of their political attention focused on elections.