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Hard facts about soft money. A company's markets often are affected by government policies in areas such as regulation, competition, and international trade. SMG Professor of Management James Post and Jennifer Griffin (SMG'97) have found that to ensure favorable policies, public affairs departments are growing in importance, getting more access to the CEO, and among the most benchmarked and reorganized -- i.e., scrutinized -- departments in the corporation.

The recent congressional campaign finance hearings have focused on corporate "soft money donations," contributions made to a political party rather than to an individual. In their study of corporate public affairs, Post and Griffin found that 70 percent of the companies they surveyed had made soft money donations. "Some businesses give soft money because their adversaries, such as unions and activist groups, do," reports Post, director of the Public and Nonprofit Management Program at SMG. "Others donate simply to keep up with their competitors, to try to keep the playing field level."

The team found further increased political involvement by corporations. More than 80 percent of their respondents have political action committees, 98 percent use trade associations, and 75 percent do grassroots lobbying, whereby employees or shareholders become company advocates. They also reported that the Internet is rapidly becoming an important tool for gaining political as well as competitive advantage.

Since federal campaign reform is dead, according to Post, he predicts that the next election cycle will see corporations champion their causes by sponsoring "issue" ads. "Companies have learned that politics isn't a spectator sport," he notes.

Standing up is no easy feat. It requires a number of sophisticated sensory systems to work in concert for a person to stand up. The small structures in the inner ear that regulate balance, the proprioceptors in the joints that can feel small shifts in alignment, and the eyes, which give us visual information about how we are oriented in space, all have their role.

In order to understand this process better, CAS Assistant Research Professor Carson Chow and ENG Professor of Biomedical Engineering Jim Collins of the Center for BioDynamics, along with Michael Lauk, a visiting graduate student from Germany, and Ann E. Pavlik (ENG'98), studied subjects using a special force-sensitive platform to record the minutiae of their swaying motions.

They tested subjects standing at ease -- if you've ever tried to stand perfectly still, you'll realize you're actually swaying ever so slightly -- and subjects who were perturbed by a slight external push. When the scientists statistically analyzed the digital information they had gathered, they found that the mechanism that keeps us standing upright works essentially the same way in either case.

"This information is particularly valuable in the treatment of people with balance problems," says Collins. "It means that in doing a neurological workup, predictions can be made about how that person will react to an external push by studying their swaying patterns while standing at ease. It eliminates the necessity of inflicting a possibly dangerous push on a frail or elderly person for diagnostic purposes."

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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