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Political contribution caps and lobby formation: Theory and evidence

  • Drazen, Allan
  • Limao, Nuno
  • Stratmann, Thomas

The perceived importance of "special interest group" money in election campaigns motivates widespread use of caps on allowable contributions. We present a bargaining model in which putting a cap that is not too stringent on the size of the contribution a lobby can make improves its bargaining position relative to the politician, thus increasing the payoff from lobbying. Such a cap will therefore increase the equilibrium number of lobbies when lobby formation is endogenous. Caps may then also increase total contributions from all lobbies, increase politically motivated government spending, and lower social welfare. We present empirical evidence from U.S. states consistent with the predictions of the model. We find a positive effect on the number of PACs formed from enacting laws constraining PAC contributions. Moreover, the estimated effect is nonlinear, as predicted by the theoretical model. Very stringent caps reduce the number of PACs, but as the cap increases above a threshold level, the effect becomes positive. Contribution caps in the majority of US states are above this threshold.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 91 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (April)
Pages: 723-754

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:91:y:2007:i:3-4:p:723-754
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Devashish Mitra, 1999. "Endogenous Lobby Formation and Endogenous Protection: A Long-Run Model of Trade Policy Determination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1116-1134, December.
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  3. Che, Yeon-Koo & Gale, Ian L, 1998. "Caps on Political Lobbying," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 643-51, June.
  4. Stephen Ansolabehere & John M. de Figueiredo & James M. Snyder, 2003. "Why Is There So Little Money in Politics?," NBER Working Papers 9409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Protection for Sale," CEPR Discussion Papers 827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Stephen Ansolabehere & John M. de Figueiredo & James M. Snyder Jr, 2003. "Why is There so Little Money in U.S. Politics?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 105-130, Winter.
  8. 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.
  9. Thomas Stratmann & Francisco J. & Aparicio-Castillo, 2006. "Competition policy for elections: Do campaign contribution limits matter?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 127(1), pages 177-206, April.
  10. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
  11. Allan Drazen & Nuno Limão, 2004. "Government Gains from Self-Restraint: A Bargaining Theory of Inefficient Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 10375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Riezman, Raymond & Wilson, John Douglas, 1997. "Political reform and trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 67-90, February.
  13. Prat, Andrea, 1999. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 2152, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
  15. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "Trade Liberalization and the Theory of Endogenous Protection: An Econometric Study of U.S. Import Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 138-60, February.
  16. Asghar Zardkoohi, 1988. "Market structure and campaign contributions: Does concentration matter? A reply," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(2), pages 187-191, August.
  17. Drazen, Allan & Limao, Nuno & Stratmann, Thomas, 2007. "Political contribution caps and lobby formation: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 723-754, April.
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