What Money Buys: The Influence of Campaign Contributions in State Legislatures
40 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 14 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
Scholars have debated the influence of campaign donations in the legislative process without coming to any consensus. This analysis develops a measure of influence for all 99 state legislative chambers to capture the myriad ways donations influence legislation. In order to understand why chambers differ in the influence of contributions, we need to understand the choices individual legislators make to raise money. It is these decisions that determine the influence of donations. A formal model is developed in which legislators provide policy to donors in exchange for contributions. The model is used to derive hypotheses relating features of institutional design and political context to the influence of contributions. Member compensation, term limits, chamber size, citizen education levels and the extent of progressive ambition among legislators are all found to affect the degree to which donations influence policy choices and explain much of the substantial variation among chambers in the influence of campaign donations.
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