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Are Campaign Contributions a Form of Speech? Evidence from Recent US House Elections


  • Dharmapala, Dhammika
  • Palda, Filip


This paper investigates the effects of the sources of candidates' campaign funding on their electoral outcomes, with particular emphasis on whether candidates who rely on a narrow base of funding suffer adverse electoral consequences. An extensive dataset consisting of over 650,000 contributions to House candidates in elections from 1980 to 1992 is used. The results reveal a negative relationship between the concentration of contributions and voteshare for open seat candidates and challengers. This finding appears to have significant implications for some of the empirical premises underlying the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Buckley v. Valeo decision. At the very least, it represents an important stylized fact about US elections that is robust over 1980-92 period. Copyright 2002 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Dharmapala, Dhammika & Palda, Filip, 2002. "Are Campaign Contributions a Form of Speech? Evidence from Recent US House Elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 112(1-2), pages 81-114, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:112:y:2002:i:1-2:p:81-114

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Kroszner, Randall S & Stratmann, Thomas, 1998. "Interest-Group Competition and the Organization of Congress: Theory and Evidence from Financial Services' Political Action Committees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1163-1187, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Jeffrey Milyo, 1998. "The Electoral Effects of Campaign Spending in House Elections: A Natural Experiment Approach," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9806, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    5. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
    6. Dharmapala, Dhammika, 1999. "Comparing tax expenditures and direct subsidies: the role of legislative committee structure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 421-454, June.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:02:p:469-491_15 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. McKelvey, Richard D. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1985. "Elections with limited information: A fulfilled expectations model using contemporaneous poll and endorsement data as information sources," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 55-85, June.
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:92:y:1998:i:02:p:401-411_21 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:89:y:1995:i:03:p:566-581_09 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Vanberg, 2005. ""One Man, One Dollar"? Examining the equalization argument in support of campaign contribution limits," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2005-31, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
    2. Vanberg, Christoph, 2008. ""One Man, One Dollar"? Campaign contribution limits, equal influence, and political communication," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 514-531, April.
    3. Fergusson, Leopoldo, 2014. "Media markets, special interests, and voters," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 13-26.
    4. Keith Jakee & Guang-Zhen Sun, 2006. "Is compulsory voting more democratic?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 61-75, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • K39 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Other


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