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Sweetening the Pot: How American Sugar Buys Protection


  • Gokcekus, Omer
  • Knowles, Justin
  • Tower, Edward


Sugar growers have been capturing substantial rents from the U.S. sugar program. Despite well-documented huge welfare losses of this program, legislators have always voted against phasing it out. This paper uses Tobit analysis to explore the determinants of campaign contributions from the sugar industry to Senators from 1989 to 2002. It finds that the power and willingness of the Senators to protect influence the campaign contributions significantly: Membership on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee attracts $4,266 of sugar contributions per two-year election cycle. The membership on the relevant subcommittee that deals with sugar legislation is even more important than membership of the agriculture committee: membership on the Agricultural Production, Marketing, and Stabilization of Prices Subcommittee is worth an additional $6,445. These results suggest the strength of the subcommittee in drafting specialized legislation and attracting interested members. Moreover, while the particular party affiliation does not make any difference, membership in the majority party is worth $1,235. Finally, an impressionable freshman Senator from a sugar cane state receives $8,366 more than a more senior senator from a non-sugar state.

Suggested Citation

  • Gokcekus, Omer & Knowles, Justin & Tower, Edward, 2003. "Sweetening the Pot: How American Sugar Buys Protection," Working Papers 03-08, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:duk:dukeec:03-08

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    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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