The Effect of Campaign Contributions on Judicial Decisionmaking

32 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2009  

Chris W. Bonneau

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 4, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: judicial elections, campaign contributions, quid pro quo

JEL Classification: H10, H79, K40

Suggested Citation

Bonneau, Chris W. and Cann, Damon M., The Effect of Campaign Contributions on Judicial Decisionmaking (February 4, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1337668 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1337668

Chris W. Bonneau (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science ( email )

4600 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.pitt.edu/~cwb7

Damon M. Cann

Utah State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

0725 University Blvd.
Logan, UT 84322-0725
United States

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