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Are PACs Trying to Influence Politicians or Voters?


  • Stephen D. Levitt


Political Action Committees (PACs) can affect public policies in either of two ways: altering legislators' roll-call voting behavior, or influencing election outcomes. This paper develops a dynamic model demonstrating that the relative importance of the election-influencing channel is easily underestimated. A one-time contribution to a candidate who supports the PAC's position that alters an election outcome yields benefits to the PAC as long as that candidate holds office. In contrast, roll-call vote buying is likely to operate on a quid-pro-quo basis, limiting the PAC's return on investment. Empirical tests based on the theoretical model suggest that PACs value the election-influencing aspect of contributions at least as much as the roll-call vote-buying channel. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1998.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen D. Levitt, 1998. "Are PACs Trying to Influence Politicians or Voters?," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 19-35, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecopol:v:10:y:1998:i:1:p:19-35

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bellemare, Marc F. & Carnes, Nicholas, 2015. "Why do members of congress support agricultural protection?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 20-34.
    2. James E. Anderson & Thomas J. Prusa, 2001. "Political Market Structure," NBER Working Papers 8371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Paul Heaton, 2005. "Oil for What?—Illicit Iraqi Oil Contracts and the U.N. Security Council," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 193-206, Fall.

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