Campaign Contributions over CEOs’ Careers
Individuals dominate money in politics, accounting for over 90% of campaign contributions, but studies of individuals’ giving are scarce. We show that individuals increase their personal contributions dramatically when they assume leadership roles at organizations such as labor unions, non-profits, and firms. Using a newly constructed dataset that focuses on personal contributions, we exploit variation in the leadership status of all 2,198 individuals who were S&P 500 CEOs at any point between 1991 and 2008 to identify a $4,000 jump in personal political giving when individuals become CEOs. Despite giving more money to more candidates, more political action committees (PACs), and more parties, active CEOs’ partisan orientations remain largely unchanged. Falsification tests of an underlying identification assumption demonstrate that these patterns hold whether an individual is promoted to CEO internally or appointed externally. While some fraction of CEOs’ contributions can be attributed to long-standing preferences, willingness, and ability to contribute, the striking change in behavior we identify cannot be explained by these factors alone.
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