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Votes or Money? Theory and Evidence from the US Congress

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  • Matilde Bombardini
  • Francesco Trebbi

Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between the size of interest groups in terms of voter representation and the interest group's campaign contributions to politicians. We uncover a robust hump-shaped relationship between the voting share of an interest group and its contributions to a legislator. This pattern is rationalized in a simultaneous bilateral bargaining model where the larger size of an interest group affects the amount of surplus to be split with the politician (thereby increasing contributions), but is also correlated with the strength of direct voter support the group can offer instead of monetary funds (thereby decreasing contributions). The model yields simple structural equations that we estimate at the district level employing data on individual and PAC donations and local employment by sector. This procedure yields estimates of electoral uncertainty and politicians effectiveness as perceived by the interest groups. Our approach also implicitly delivers a novel method for estimating the impact of campaign spending on election outcomes: we find that an additional vote costs a politician between 100 and 400 dollars depending on the district.

Suggested Citation

  • Matilde Bombardini & Francesco Trebbi, 2007. "Votes or Money? Theory and Evidence from the US Congress," NBER Working Papers 13672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13672
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. How much does a vote really cost?
      by Ariel Goldring in Free Market Mojo on 2010-12-20 20:00:56

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    Cited by:

    1. Fremeth, Adam & Richter, Brian & Schaufele, Brandon, 2018. "Spillovers from regulating corporate campaign contributions," MPRA Paper 87612, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Masanori Mitsutsune & Takanori Adachi, 2014. "Estimating noncooperative and cooperative models of bargaining: an empirical comparison," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 669-693, September.
    3. Bertrand, Marianne & Bombardini, Matilde & Fisman, Raymond & Trebbi, Francesco, 2018. "Tax-Exempt Lobbying: Corporate Philanthropy as a Tool for Political Influence," CEPR Discussion Papers 13025, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Emily Blanchard & Xenia Matschke, 2015. "U.S. Multinationals and Preferential Market Access," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 839-854, October.
    5. William Pyle & Laura Solanko, 2013. "The composition and interests of Russia’s business lobbies: testing Olson’s hypothesis of the “encompassing organization”," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 19-41, April.
    6. Hummel, Patrick & Holden, Richard, 2014. "Optimal primaries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 64-75.
    7. Andrey Stoyanov, 2016. "Regional Trade Agreements and Cross-border Lobbying: Empirical Evidence from the Canada–US Free Trade Agreement Negotiations," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(1), pages 126-149, February.
    8. R. W. Major & Madina Rival, 2012. "From informal practices to formal conduct: Which ethical practices and issues for French lobbying consulting?," Working Papers halshs-00709380, HAL.
    9. Aggey Semenov & Hector Perez Saiz, 2014. "The Effect Of Campaign Contributions On State Banking Regulation And Bank Expansion In U.S," 2014 Meeting Papers 1265, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Thomas Bassetti & Filippo Pavesi, 2012. "Deep Pockets, Extreme Preferences: Interest Groups and Campaign Finance Contributions," Working Papers 222, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2012.
    11. Mian, Atif & Sufi, Amir & Trebbi, Francesco, 2013. "The Political Economy of the Subprime Mortgage Credit Expansion," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 8(4), pages 373-408, October.
    12. Laurent Bouton & Micael Castanheira & Allan Drazen, 2018. "A Theory of Small Campaign Contributions," NBER Working Papers 24413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. John M. de Figueiredo & Brian Kelleher Richter, 2013. "Advancing the Empirical Research on Lobbying," NBER Working Papers 19698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Gabriel, Stuart A. & Kahn, Matthew E. & Vaughn, Ryan K., 2015. "Congressional influence as a determinant of subprime lending," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 91-102.
    15. Yan Leung Cheung & P. Raghavendra Rau & Aris Stouraitis, 2012. "How much do firms pay as bribes and what benefits do they get? Evidence from corruption cases worldwide," NBER Working Papers 17981, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Thomas Bassetti & Filippo Pavesi, 2017. "Electoral Contributions And The Cost Of Unpopularity," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1771-1791, October.
    17. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi & Francesco Trebbi, 2010. "The Political Economy of the US Mortgage Default Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 1967-1998, December.
    18. Salvador Bertomeu & Antonio Estache, 2016. "Unbundling Political and Economic Rationality: a Non-Parametric Approach Tested on Spain," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2016-17, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    19. Wolton, Stephane, 2016. "Lobbying, Inside and Out: How Special Interest Groups Influence Policy Choices," MPRA Paper 68637, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Ovtchinnikov, Alexei V. & Pantaleoni, Eva, 2012. "Individual political contributions and firm performance," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 367-392.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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