Christopher Witko, "Hijacking the Agenda: Economic Power and Political Influence" (Russell Sage Foundation, 2021)


How do competing interests shape public policy? Why are the economic interests and priorities of lower-, working-, and middle-class Americans often neglected while the interests and priorities of wealthier Americans are often front and center for the U.S. Congress? Previous work in political science has highlighted income disparity or the importance of agenda setting but Hijacking the Agenda: Economic Power and Political Influence (Russell Sage Foundation, 2021) unpacks HOW business interests and wealthy individuals shape public policy to their benefit by “hijacking the agenda” away from the interests of average Americans. Witko, Morgan, Kelly, and Enns focus on the speech of elected representatives as recorded in the Congressional Record. Their remarkable Congressional Rhetoric Database codes speech from 1995 to 2016. Using an integrated, multi-method research design, they conclude that the interplay between two types of power – structural and kinetic – give wealthy interests considerable influence over the issues that receive congressional attention and explaining these patterns of issue attention over time is crucial for understanding disparate policy outcomes. In addition to a sophisticated quantitative analysis, the book provides three astute case studies (financial deregulation, re-regulation, and the minimum wage) and a general theory of politics and economic power. Hijacking the Agenda details how money – especially in the form of campaign contributions – affects which economic problems Congress believes to be important – and acts upon. Hijacking the Agenda is winner of the 2022 Gladys M. Kammerer Award from the American Political Science Association.

Dr. Christopher Witko is professor of public policy and associate director of the School of Public Policy at Penn State, Drs. Jana Morgan and Nathan J. Kelly are professors of political science at the University of Tennessee, and Dr. Peter K. Enns is professor of public policy and political science at Cornell University.

Susan Liebell is Dirk Warren '50 Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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Susan Liebell

Susan Liebell is a Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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