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Should We Tax or Cap Political Contributions? A Lobbying Model with Policy Favors and Access

  • Christopher Cotton

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Miami)

This paper develops a model of political contributions in which a politician can either sell policy favors, or sell access. Access allows interest groups to share hard information with the politician in support of their preferred policy. Here selling access maximizes policy utility, while selling policy favors maximizes total contributions. Imposing a binding contribution limit makes it more likely that the politician sells access, which can improve expected constituent welfare. However, a contribution limit distorts the signals associated with the contributions, which tends to result in worse policy. Alternatively, a tax on political contributions can ensure that the politician sells access without distorting his information. Therefore, from the viewpoint of a representative constituent, a tax on contributions is strictly preferred to a contribution limit or no reform. The politician, however, may prefer regulation in the form of a contribution limit, even when a tax is better for the constituent.

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File URL: http://www.bus.miami.edu/_assets/files/faculty-and-research/academic-departments/eco/eco-working-papers/wp2009-01-TaxOrCap.pdf
File Function: First Version, 2008
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Paper provided by University of Miami, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 0901.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming: Under Review
Handle: RePEc:mia:wpaper:0901
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  1. Christopher Cotton, 2008. "Access Fees in Politics," Working Papers 0903, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  2. Austen-Smith, David, 1998. "Allocating Access for Information and Contributions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 277-303, October.
  3. Morten Bennedsen & Sven E. Feldmann, 2000. "Informational Lobbying and Political Contributions," CIE Discussion Papers 2000-02, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics.
  4. Kovenock, D. & de Vries, C.G., 1995. "The All-Pay Auction with Complete Information," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 311.95, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  5. Prat, A., 1997. "Campaign Advertising and Voter Welfare," Discussion Paper 1997-118, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  6. Matthias Dahm & Nicolás Porteiro, 2008. "Side Effects of Campaign Finance Reform," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(5), pages 1057-1077, 09.
  7. Joel Watson & Jesse Bull, 2004. "Hard Evidence and Mechanism Design," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 433, Econometric Society.
  8. Matthias Dahm & Nicolás Porteiro, 2006. "Informational Lobbying under the Shadow of Political Pressure," Working Papers 06.14, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics.
  9. Bull, Jesse & Watson, Joel, 2000. "Evidence Disclosure and Verifiability," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt6th0060j, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  10. Riezman, Raymond & Wilson, John Douglas, 1997. "Political reform and trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 67-90, February.
  11. Baye, M.R. & Kovenock, D. & De Vries, C.G., 1992. "Rigging the Lobbying Process: An Application of the All- Pay Auction," Papers 9-92-2, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  12. Allan Drazen & Nuno Limão & Thomas Stratman, 2004. "Political Contribution Caps and Lobby Formation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 10928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 1998. "Caps on Political Lobbying," Microeconomics 9809003, EconWPA.
  15. Simon P. Anderson & Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, 1998. "Rent Seeking with Bounded Rationality: An Analysis of the All-Pay Auction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(4), pages 828-853, August.
  16. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
  17. Richard Ball, 1995. "Interest Groups, Influence And Welfare," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(2), pages 119-146, 07.
  18. 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.
  19. Arye L. Hillman & John G. Riley, 1987. "Politically Contestable Rents and Transfers," UCLA Economics Working Papers 452, UCLA Department of Economics.
  20. Holt, Charles A, Jr & Sherman, Roger, 1982. "Waiting-Line Auctions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(2), pages 280-94, April.
  21. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1986. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 18-32, Spring.
  22. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1986. "Menu Auctions, Resource Allocation, and Economic Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-31.
  23. Arieh Gavious & Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2002. "Bid Costs and Endogenous Bid Caps," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 709-722, Winter.
  24. Stephen Coate, 2001. "Political Competition with Campaign Contributions and Informative Advertising," NBER Working Papers 8693, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Thomas Stratmann, 2005. "Some talk: Money in politics. A (partial) review of the literature," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 135-156, July.
  26. Lipman Barton L. & Seppi Duane J., 1995. "Robust Inference in Communication Games with Partial Provability," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 370-405, August.
  27. 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.
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