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How Reelection Constituencies Matter: Evidence from Political Action Committees' Contributions and Congressional Voting


  • Stratmann, Thomas


The article shows that voting in the U.S. Congress and contribution strategies of political action committees (PACs) are guided not by the median voter model but by a model that emphasizes characteristics of legislators' unobserved reelection constituencies. It also identifies which legislators of a given party have conservative or liberal reelection constituencies. The proposed model indicates that the importance of party affiliation for congressional voting differs for legislators with identical party affiliation. Differences are caused by dissimilar characteristics of their reelection constituencies. The proposed model implies distinct patterns of giving by corporate and labor PACs to legislators of the same party with dissimilar reelection constituencies. The evidence is consistent with the proposed model and is consistent with the objective of PACs to influence congressional decisions and assemble a voting majority in Congress. For example, labor PACs were found to contribute heavily to those Democratic legislators with conservative reelection constituencies. Copyright 1996 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Stratmann, Thomas, 1996. "How Reelection Constituencies Matter: Evidence from Political Action Committees' Contributions and Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 603-635, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:39:y:1996:i:2:p:603-35

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grier, Kevin B & Munger, Michael C, 1991. "Committee Assignments, Constituent Preferences, and Campaign Contributions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(1), pages 24-43, January.
    2. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    3. James B. Kau & Donald Keenan & Paul H. Rubin, 1982. "A General Equilibrium Model of Congressional Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 271-293.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:80:y:1986:i:01:p:89-106_18 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Snyder, James M, Jr, 1992. "Long-Term Investing in Politicians; or, Give Early, Give Often," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 15-43, April.
    6. Jung, Gi-Ryong & Kenny, Lawrence W. & Lott, John Jr., 1994. "An explanation for why senators from the same state vote differently so frequently," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 65-96, May.
    7. 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.
    8. Goff, Brian L & Grier, Kevin B, 1993. "On the (Mis)measurement of Legislator Ideology and Shirking," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 76(1-2), pages 5-20, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Dorsch, 2013. "Bailout for sale? The vote to save Wall Street," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 211-228, June.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Bohara, Alok K. & Camargo, Alejandro Islas & Grijalva, Therese & Gawande, Kishore, 2005. "Fundamental dimensions of U.S. trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 93-125, January.
    5. Kauder, Björn & Potrafke, Niklas & Reischmann, Markus, 2016. "Do politicians reward core supporters? Evidence from a discretionary grant program," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 39-56.

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