… is from pages ix-x of the late James Q. Wilson’s Introduction to the classic collection he edited in 1980, The Politics of Regulation:
But if the “capture” theory [of government regulation] is correct – at least in some cases – it is unreasonable to assume that only business firms would be able to capture an agency. As government regulates more aspects of our lives, a greater variety of interests – occupations, professions, institutions, associations – acquire a stake in influencing the behavior of the regulatory agencies. If we assume that the airline companies will try to capture the Civil Aeronautics Board, it makes sense to assume that professors will try to capture the National Science Foundation, teachers to capture the Department of Education, environmentalists to capture the Council on Environmental Quality, and civil rights activists to capture the Office for Civil Rights. The plausibility of this assumption is sometimes obscured by calling agency-interest relations of which we approve “citizen participation” and agency-interest relations of which we disapprove “capture,” but the issue is very much the same whatever rhetorical label we choose to employ.