Using Political Financing Reforms to Measure Campaign Spending Effects on Electoral Outcomes
This paper studies the impact of campaign spending on votes in French legislative elections. We exploit the political financing reforms which were adopted in France in the mid-1990s. Under the new laws, spending limits were reduced, legal persons were no longer allowed to finance candidates, and the maximal amount of personal expenditures reimbursed by the State was augmented. We have data on two consecutive elections (one before and one after the reforms) and focus on candidates who competed in both of them. We find that the difference in candidates’ campaign expenses across elections is strongly affected by the reforms. We then estimate a structural vote equation using panel data to control for unobserved characteristics of candidates. Spending has a statistically significant effect, but only for challengers. We cannot reject the hypothesis that challenger spending has the same impact across the various political parties in France.
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