Lobbying: Denmark’s most influential groups

New book reveals top lobbyists

A soon-to-be-published book by a group of researchers from Aarhus University reveals surprising truths about the exercise of political influence in Denmark. Of the 1,700 interest organisations in the country, nine of them wield a third of the influence at Christiansborg.

In ‘Organisationer i politik’ (Organisations in Politics),Professor Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz, Associate Professor Helene Helboe Pedersen and Professor Peter Munk Christiansen from the Department of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University look at lobbying in Denmark and compare it with Holland and the United Kingdom.

The price of influence
The newspaper Information outlines some of the book’s findings. For example, whereas in the comparison countries where the government and politicians actively seek consultation with interest groups, lobbying in Denmark occurs primarily at the interest organisations’ initiative. Those with more financial resources are therefore better placed to influence policy.

The researchers conclude “interest organisations use a lot of resources on membership of councils and committees, contacting civil servants, getting their organisation’s views covered in the media and, in many cases, liaising with members of parliament and parliamentary committees. They wouldn’t invest this kind of money if they weren’t getting something in return – in other words influencing the political agenda and political and administrative decisions.”

An example of how lobbying successfully influenced policy is Dansk Industri, the Confederation of Danish Industry, shaping the content of the government’s growth plan. They drew up a number of proposals and successfully lobbied for many of them to be included in the government's plan.

The nine super lobbyist groups are: Dansk Industri, Dansk Erhverv (the Danish Chamber of Commerce), Landbrug & Fødevarer (the Danish Agriculture and Food Council), LO (The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions), the trade union 3F; the trade union FOA, KL (Local Government Denmark), Dansk Regioner (Danish Regions) and the consumer organisation Forbrugerrådet.

A threat to democracy?
The researchers question the implications for democracy that such a small group of organisations sits on so much influence. But they temper the risk assessment with reference to the nature of the groups in question: “These organisations represent different types of interests, employees and employers, consumers and industry, and they are so broad that they have to give at least some consideration to society’s interests as a whole in furthering their own interests.”

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