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Political Contribution Caps and Lobby Formation: Theory and Evidence

  • Allan Drazen
  • Nuno Limão
  • Thomas Stratman

The perceived importance of "special interest group" money in election campaigns motivates widespread use of caps on allowable contributions. We present a bargaining model in which putting a cap that is not too stringent on the size of the contribution a lobby can make improves its bargaining position relative to the politician, thus increasing the payoff from lobbying. Such a cap will therefore increase the equilibrium number of lobbies when lobby formation is endogenous. Caps may then also increase total contributions from all lobbies, increase politically motivated government spending, and lower social welfare. We present empirical evidence from U.S. states consistent with the predictions of the model. We find a positive effect on the number of PACs formed from enacting laws constraining PAC contributions. Moreover, the estimated effect is nonlinear, as predicted by the theoretical model. Very stringent caps reduce the number of PACs, but as the cap increases above a threshold level, the effect becomes positive. Contribution caps in the majority of US states are above this threshold.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10928.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10928.

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Date of creation: Nov 2004
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Publication status: published as Drazen, Allan & Limao, Nuno & Stratmann, Thomas, 2007. "Political contribution caps and lobby formation: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 723-754, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10928
Note: EFG POL
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  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.
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  14. Trefler, Daniel, 1993. "Trade Liberalization and the Theory of Endogenous Protection: An Econometric Study of U.S. Import Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 138-60, February.
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