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Does Political Ambiguity Pay? Corporate Campaign contributions and the Rewards to Legislator Reputation

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  • Randall S. Kroszner
  • Thomas Stratmann

Abstract

Do politicians tend to follow a strategy of ambiguity in their policy positions or a strategy of reputational development to reduce uncertainty about where they stand? Ambiguity could allow a legislator to avoid alienating constituents and to play rival interests off against each other to maximize campaign contributions. Alternatively, reputational clarity could help to reduce uncertainty about a candidate and lead to high campaign contributions from favored interests. We outline a theory that considers conditions under which a politician would and would not prefer reputational development and policy-stance clarity in the context of repeat dealing with special interests. Our proxy for reputational development is the percent of repeat givers to a legislator. Using data on corporate political action committee contributions (PACs) to members of the U.S. House during the seven electoral cycles from 1983/84 to 1995/96, we find that legislators do not appear to follow a strategy of ambiguity and that high reputational development is rewarded with high PAC contributions.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State in its series University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State with number 155.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:155

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Cited by:
  1. Adam Meirowitz, 2005. "Keeping the other candidate guessing: Electoral competition when preferences are private information," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 299-318, March.
  2. Randall S. Kroszner, 2000. "The economics and politics of financial modernization," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Oct, pages 25-37.
  3. Dalton Conley & Brian J. McCabe, 2008. "Bribery or Just Desserts? Evidence on the Influence of Congressional Voting Patterns on PAC Contributions from Exogenous Variation in the Sex Mix of Legislator Offspring," NBER Working Papers 13945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Randall S. Kroszner & Philip E. Strahan, 2000. "Obstacles to Optimal Policy: The Interplay of Politics and Economics in Shaping Bank Supervision and Regulation Reforms," CRSP working papers 512, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.

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