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Why Do Political Action Committees Give Money to Candidates? Campaign Contributions, Policy Choices, and Election Outcomes


  • Christopher Magee

    (Bard College)


This paper examines political action committees' motivations for giving campaign contributions to candidates for political office. First, the paper estimates the effect of campaign contributions received by candidates on the outcomes of the 1996 elections to the U.S. House of Representatives. Next, the paper uses a Congressional Quarterly survey of candidates' policy positions to determine the impact of contributions on the policy stances adopted by the candidates. The empirical results suggest that political action committees donate campaign funds to challengers in order to affect the outcome of the election. Campaign contributions received by challengers have a large impact on the election outcome but do not affect the challengers' policy stances on any of the five issues examined in this paper. Campaign contributions to incumbents do not raise their chances of election, however, and affect their policy decisions on only one issue. Some evidence is presented that PAC contributions to incumbents may be given primarily in order to secure unobservable services for the political action committees.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Magee, 2000. "Why Do Political Action Committees Give Money to Candidates? Campaign Contributions, Policy Choices, and Election Outcomes," Macroeconomics 0004038, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:0004038 Note: Type of Document - Adobe Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 32; figures: included

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Levitt, Steven D, 1994. "Using Repeat Challengers to Estimate the Effect of Campaign Spending on Election Outcomes in the U.S. House," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 777-798, August.
    2. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
    3. Rebecca Morton & Charles Cameron, 1992. "Elections And The Theory Of Campaign Contributions: A Survey And Critical Analysis," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(1), pages 79-108, March.
    4. Stratmann, Thomas, 1998. "The Market for Congressional Votes: Is Timing of Contributions Everything?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(1), pages 85-113, April.
    5. Stratmann, Thomas, 1992. "Are Contributions Rational? Untangling Strategies of Political Action Committees," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 647-664, June.
    6. Chappell, Henry W, Jr, 1982. "Campaign Contributions and Congressional Voting: A Simultaneous Probit-Tobit Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(1), pages 77-83, February.
    7. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Policy Watch: Congressional Campaign Finance Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 183-193, Winter.
    8. Bender, Bruce & Lott, John R, Jr, 1996. "Legislator Voting and Shirking: A Critical Review of the Literature," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 87(1-2), pages 67-100, April.
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:02:p:469-491_15 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:91:y:1997:i:02:p:324-338_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Bronars, Stephen G & Lott, John R, Jr, 1997. "Do Campaign Donations Alter How a Politician Votes? Or, Do Donors Support Candidates Who Value the Same Things That They Do?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 317-350, October.
    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:82:y:1988:i:02:p:385-403_08 is not listed on IDEAS
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    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics

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