The Effect of Campaign Contributions on Judicial Decisionmaking
Chris W. Bonneau
University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science
Damon M. Cann
Utah State University - Department of Political Science
February 4, 2009
In this paper we address a pressing issue on the contemporary political agenda: Is justice for sale? The implications of such a relationship between campaign contributions and judicial decisions, if it exists, merit a thorough empirical investigation regarding the existence of quid pro quo exchanges between judges and their campaign contributors. We examine decisions by judges on both nonpartisan (Nevada) and partisan (Michigan, Texas) supreme courts in the 2005 term. While we do not find any evidence of a relationship between contributions and the votes of judges in Nevada, it does appear that there is a quid pro quo relationship between contributors and votes in Michigan and Texas. Using an instrumental variables probit model, we are able to control for the endogeneity between contributions and votes and thus can conclude that contributions drive judicial votes, and not the other way around. While we only examine three states and one year here, the results suggest that there may be circumstances where the appearance of impropriety surrounding campaign contributions and judicial decisionmaking may be an empirical reality.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: judicial elections, campaign contributions, quid pro quo
JEL Classification: H10, H79, K40
Date posted: February 4, 2009
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