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Why Is There So Little Money in Politics?

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  • Stephen Ansolabehere
  • John M. de Figueiredo
  • James M. Snyder

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that campaign contributions are not a form of policy-buying, but are rather a form of political participation and consumption. We summarize the data on campaign spending, and show through our descriptive statistics and our econometric analysis that individuals, not special interests, are the main source of campaign contributions. Moreover, we demonstrate that campaign giving is a normal good, dependent upon income, and campaign contributions as a percent of GDP have not risen appreciably in over 100 years: if anything, they have probably fallen. We then show that only one in four studies from the previous literature support the popular notion that contributions buy legislators' votes. Finally, we illustrate that when one controls for unobserved constituent and legislator effects, there is little relationship between money and legislator votes. Thus, the question is not why there is so little money politics, but rather why organized interests give at all. We conclude by offering potential answers to this question.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9409.

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Date of creation: Jan 2003
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Publication status: published as Ansolabehere, Stephen, John de Figueiredo, and James M. Snyder. "Why Is There So Little Money in U.S. Politics?" Journal of Economic Perspectives 17, 1 (Winter 2003): 105-130.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9409

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  1. Ernesto Dal Bo, 2000. "Bribing Voters," Economics Series Working Papers 39, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Bronars, Stephen G & Lott, John R, Jr, 1997. "Do Campaign Donations Alter How a Politician Votes? Or, Do Donors Support Candidates Who Value the Same Things That They Do?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 317-50, October.
  3. Baron, David P, 1989. "Service-Induced Campaign Contributions and the Electoral Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(1), pages 45-72, February.
  4. Coughlin, Cletus C, 1985. "Domestic Content Legislation: House Voting and the Economic Theory of Regulation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 23(3), pages 437-48, July.
  5. Chappell, Henry W, Jr, 1982. "Campaign Contributions and Congressional Voting: A Simultaneous Probit-Tobit Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(1), pages 77-83, February.
  6. Henry Chappell, 1981. "Campaign contributions and voting on the cargo preference bill: A comparison of simultaneous models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 301-312, January.
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  1. > Political Economy > The Political Economy of the US
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