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Selling favors in the lab: experiments on campaign finance reform

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Author Info

  • Daniel Houser

    ()

  • Thomas Stratmann

    ()

Abstract

Substantial academic interest and public policy debate centers on campaign finance reform. Campaign resources can provide benefits to constituencies if candidates use them to fund the distribution of useful information. On the other hand, voters can potentially be harmed if candidates trade policy favors to special interests in exchange for contributions. Unfortunately, because informative field data on this topic are very difficult to obtain, the effects of different campaign finance strategies on election outcomes and economic welfare remain largely uninformed by empirical analyses. This paper reports data from novel laboratory experiments designed to shed light on the campaign finance debate. Our experiment is based on a model where power-hungry candidates are motivated to trade favors for campaign contributions. Our data is consistent with the model’s predictions. We find that voters’ revise their beliefs in response to candidate advertising in a way that is consistent with theory. Moreover, in relation to privately financed electoral competitions, in publicly financed campaigns (i) high-quality candidates are elected more frequently, and (ii) margins of victory are larger. Both of these outcomes are predicted by theory. We conduct policy experiments on various campaign finance strategies, including the widely suggested caps on private fundraising. Our results suggest that caps can improve voter welfare but do not increase the likelihood that high-quality candidates will be elected.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-008-9292-z
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 136 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 215-239

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:136:y:2008:i:1:p:215-239

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

Related research

Keywords: Campaign contribution limits; Campaign finance; Public finance; Political advertising; Experiments;

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References

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  1. Levitt, Steven D, 1994. "Using Repeat Challengers to Estimate the Effect of Campaign Spending on Election Outcomes in the U.S. House," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 777-98, August.
  2. Thomas Stratmann, 2006. "Contribution limits and the effectiveness of campaign spending," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 461-474, December.
  3. Prat, A., 1997. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," Discussion Paper 1997-118, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  4. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-50, September.
  5. Potters, Jan & Sloof, Randolph & van Winden, Frans, 1997. "Campaign expenditures, contributions and direct endorsements: The strategic use of information and money to influence voter behavior," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-31, February.
  6. Christian Schultz, 2003. "Strategic Campaigns and Redistributive Politics," EPRU Working Paper Series 03-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  7. Daniel Houser & Michael Keane & Kevin McCabe, 2002. "Behavior in a dynamic decision problem: An analysis of experimental evidence using a bayesian type classification algorithm," Experimental 0211001, EconWPA.
  8. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
  9. Stratmann, Thomas, 1998. "The Market for Congressional Votes: Is Timing of Contributions Everything?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 85-113, April.
  10. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 265-86, April.
  11. Rebecca Morton & Charles Cameron, 1992. "Elections And The Theory Of Campaign Contributions: A Survey And Critical Analysis," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(1), pages 79-108, 03.
  12. Wittman, Donald, 2007. "Candidate quality, pressure group endorsements and the nature of political advertising," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 360-378, June.
  13. Stratmann, Thomas, 2002. "Can Special Interests Buy Congressional Votes? Evidence from Financial Services Legislation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 345-73, October.
  14. Prat, A., 1998. "Campaign Spending with Office-Seeking Politicians, Rational Voters and Multiple Lobbies," Discussion Paper 1998-123, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  15. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
  16. David Austen-Smith, 1987. "Interest groups, campaign contributions, and probabilistic voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 54(2), pages 123-139, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Emir Kamenica & Louisa Egan Brad, 2014. "Voters, dictators, and peons: expressive voting and pivotality," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(1), pages 159-176, April.
  2. Thomas Stratmann, 2006. "Contribution limits and the effectiveness of campaign spending," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 461-474, December.
  3. Thomas Stratmann, 2005. "Some talk: Money in politics. A (partial) review of the literature," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 135-156, July.
  4. Ovtchinnikov, Alexei V. & Pantaleoni, Eva, 2012. "Individual political contributions and firm performance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 367-392.
  5. Marie-Claire Villeval, 2007. "Experimental Economics: Contributions, Recent Developments, and New Challenges," Working Papers 0706, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  6. Fergusson, Leopoldo, 2014. "Media markets, special interests, and voters," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 13-26.
  7. William Pyle & Laura Solanko, 2013. "The composition and interests of Russia’s business lobbies: testing Olson’s hypothesis of the “encompassing organization”," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 19-41, April.
  8. Daniel Houser & Thomas Stratmann, 2012. "Gordon Tullock and experimental economics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 211-222, July.
  9. Hanming Fang & Dmitry A. Shapiro & Arthur Zillante, 2011. "An Experimental Study of Alternative Campaign Finance Systems: Donations, Elections and Policy Choices," NBER Working Papers 17384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Houser, Daniel & Morton, Rebecca & Stratmann, Thomas, 2011. "Turned on or turned out? Campaign advertising, information and voting," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 708-727.
  11. Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser, 2007. "Emotion Expression and Fairness in Economic Exchange," Working Papers 1004, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Nov 2007.

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