In This Review

Politics for Profit: Business, Elections, and Policymaking in Russia
Politics for Profit: Business, Elections, and Policymaking in Russia
By David Szakonyi
350 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2020

Businesspeople commonly rely on lobbying or making campaign contributions to win favorable policies from governments. But in states with weaker political institutions, politicians tend to renege on their promises. This may drive businesspeople to run for office themselves, despite the high costs required for winning and holding elected offices and the risk of unwanted public attention. Szakonyi’s work of political economy studies Russian businesspeople who seek elected positions in regional legislatures. Only larger and wealthier firms can afford the high costs of winning elections. Competition motivates some businesspeople; if an executive from a firm’s rival runs for office, then that firm must also seek to place its own “in-house lobbyist” in the legislature. Szakonyi identifies the advantages companies gain by participating in local politics: firms connected to winning candidates significantly increase their revenue and profit margins. Not surprisingly, these businesspeople turned legislators pursue pro-business policies that evince little concern for the needs of ordinary citizens, such as health care or education. The author draws on a broad range of data, including numerous interviews with regional businesspeople. His rigorous scientific methods complement an enjoyable and convincing narrative.