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Tainted Money? Contribution Limits and the Effectiveness of Campaign Spending

  • Thomas Stratmann

Campaign expenditures are not effective in increasing candidates’ vote shares if voters do not respond to the advertisement when they believe that campaign expenditures are financed with “tainted money.” In this situation, limiting contributions may reduce the number of policy favors that candidates promise to contributors, and thereby increase the effectiveness of campaign spending. Exploiting cross-state variation in campaign finance laws, this paper tests whether campaign expenditures by state House candidates are more productive in increasing vote shares when candidates run in states that limit contributions. The results show that campaign expenditures by incumbents, challengers, and open seat candidates are more productive when candidates run in states with campaign contribution limits, as opposed to in states without limits. Controlling for the endogeneity of incumbent spending, the study shows that in states with contribution limits, incumbent spending and challenger spending are equally productive, and that spending by both candidates is quantitatively important in increasing their vote shares.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1044.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1044
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  1. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  2. Prat, Andrea, 2002. "Campaign Spending with Office-Seeking Politicians, Rational Voters, and Multiple Lobbies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 162-189, March.
  3. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 265-86, April.
  4. Prat, Andrea, 1999. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 2152, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin & Christian Schultz, 2005. "Public Funding of Political Parties," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(5), pages 781-791, December.
  6. 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.
  7. Milyo, Jeffrey & Groseclose, Timothy, 1999. "The Electoral Effects of Incumbent Wealth," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 699-722, October.
  8. Stratmann, Thomas, 2002. "Can Special Interests Buy Congressional Votes? Evidence from Financial Services Legislation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 345-73, October.
  9. Dennis Coates, 1998. "Additional incumbent spending really can harm (at least some) incumbents: An analysis of vote share maximization," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 63-87, April.
  10. 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.
  11. Daniel, Kermit & Lott, John R, Jr, 1997. " Term Limits and Electoral Competitiveness: Evidence from California's State Legislative Races," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 90(1-4), pages 165-84, March.
  12. Stratmann, Thomas, 1995. "Campaign Contributions and Congressional Voting: Does the Timing of Contributions Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(1), pages 127-36, February.
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