Abstract: This Thing Called GOODWILL: Corporate Political Activity in US Metals
This paper explores corporate political activity (CPA) through a study of the Reynolds Metals Company (RMC), and its founder Richard S. Reynolds, Snr (1881 – 1955), alongside the well-scrutinized actions of fellow “government entrepreneur” Henry J. Kaiser (1882 – 1967) (Foster, 1989; Adams, 1997). Both Reynolds and Kaiser entered the aluminum industry during WWII. Previously the industry had been dominated by a small number of “first mover” firms both domestically and globally. The North American industry was dominated by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) and the Aluminium Company of Canada, Ltd. (Alcan). The global industry was characterised by a high degree of cartelization, high entry costs and a history of state intervention (because of aluminum’s strategic importance). Pivotal to RMC’s (and Kaiser’s) successful penetration into the aluminum industry was their corporate political activity at both federal and state levels. This paper seeks to contribute to the extant literature on CPA by underlining the importance of historical context to understanding business-politics relations, and by considering the broader political leanings of entrepreneurs.