Campaign finance reading list

Thomas Stratmann. 2005. Some talk: Money in politics. A (partial) review of the literature. In Public Choice, volume 124.
Decades of academic research, and copious amounts of data, has failed to find any widespread influence of campaign contributions on the outcomes of roll call votes.

Joshua L. Kalla and David E. Broockman. Forthcoming. Campaign Contributions Facilitate Access to Congressional Officials: A Randomized Field Experiment.
A field experiment showed that campaign contributors get greater access to policymakers. “[The first randomized field experiment on the effects of campaign contributions on access to policymakers. In the experiment, a political organization attempted to schedule meetings between 191 Congressional offices and active campaign donors in their districts. .  . . When informed prospective attendees were political donors, senior policymakers made themselves available between three and four times more often.”

Caitlin Macneal. June 9, 2014. GOP Rep. Acknowledges That Members Expect Donations For Votes. In Talking Points Memo Limewire.
It’s an open secret that large donors make tactical contributions. Macneal reports on an open admission of how this works. “McAllister told the crowd that an unnamed colleague told him on the House floor that if he voted ‘no’ on the bill, he would receive a contribution from Heritage, a conservative think tank. ‘I played dumb and asked him, “How would you vote?” ‘ McAllister said. ‘He told me, “Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage [Action]. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group.” ‘ ”

Lee Jared Drutman. 2010. The Business of America is Lobbying: The Expansion of Corporate Political Activity and the Future of American Pluralism. Doctoral dissertation, U.C. Berkeley.
In a survey of lobbyists by Lee Drutman, the importance of fundraiser events was ranked near the bottom among 21 lobbying tactics. Drutman also reported that of businesses with a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., just 24% maintain a PAC, the sort of organization they would need to make campaign contributions.22 (Of course, as Drutman pointed out, the sensitivity of admitting that fundraisers are a component of lobbying may have reduced their apparent importance.) (pages 11, 39)

Damon M. Cann. 2009. Sharing the Wealth: Member Contributions and the Exchange Theory of Party Influence in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Cann performed a thorough analysis of how transfers of money between congressional campaigns influenced committee chair assignments. Cann compared seniority, party unity, contributions to other candidates’ campaigns and other factors against who won and who lost of those House members seeking chair positions. On the bright side, it hasn’t always been about money. In the 104th Congress, the Speaker (Newt Gingrich) relied primarily on committee seniority when choosing his new set of committee chairs, following long-standing precedent. Chair selection in the 105th and 106th Congresses (under Gingrich and then Dennis Hastert) began to be influenced by campaign contributions to the party. An extra $30,000 could catapult the second senior Republican member into the chair. By 2001 and the 107th Congress, the seniority system had been abandoned. By the numbers, Hastert’s chair assignments from the 107th to the 109th Congress could be explained almost entirely by who had given the most to Hastert’s party and whether they had in the past voted in unity with the party. A similar but slightly less certain picture unfolded for the selection of the chairs of the Appropriations subcommittees.

Lynn Vavreck. Oct. 7, 2014. A Campaign Dollar’s Power Is More Valuable to a Challenger. In The New York Times / Upshot.
The value of a dollar spent may be worth more to challengers than to incumbents. “[T]o earn one additional vote, the incumbent member of Congress had to spend roughly $200, while the mayoral challenger had to spend only $30 . . . Caps on money probably hurt challengers in both parties more than they hurt either individual party. A large amount of money in campaigns, often deplored, may actually hurt incumbents by helping challengers compete effectively. 

Eleanor Neff Powell and Justin Grimmer. 2014. Money in Exile: Campaign Contributions and Committee Access.
Some contributions are shown to be tied to whether a member of Congress holds a particular committee position. That is, some contributors are trying to shape the make-up of committees. “[W]e exploit committee exile—the involuntary removal of committee members after a party loses a sizable number of seats . . . We use exile to show that . . . [i]ndustries overseen by the committee decrease contributions to exiled legislators, and instead direct their contributions to new committee members from the opposite party.”

Phil Mattingly. August 28, 2014. The Super PAC Workaround: How Candidates Quietly, Legally Communicate. In Bloomberg Businessweek.
Candidates cannot coordinate their expenditures with other PACs that support them. This article shows how candidates are skirting the rules to communicate with Super PACs.

Ray La Raja. January 7, 2015. Campaign finance laws that make small donations public may lead to fewer people contributing and to smaller donations. In the London School of Economics and Political Science blog.
Donors, at least small donors, are reluctant to divulge personal information and put their contribution in the public record. Disclosure of personal information can decrease small money donations by half and can lead to donors making smaller donations to stay beneath reporting requirements.

Author anonymous. February 5, 2015. Confessions of a congressman: 9 secrets from the inside. In Vox.
“Campaigns are so expensive that the average member needs a million-dollar war chest every two years and spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money. Think about that. You’re paying us to do a job and we’re spending that time you’re paying us asking rich people and corporations to give us money so we can run ads convincing you to keep paying us to do this job.” “If a member of Congress doesn’t vote with his or her party 99 percent of the time, he’s considered unreliable and excluded from party decision-making.”