Fundraising Consultants and the Representation of National and Local Campaign Donor Bases in U.S. House Election Campaigns
29 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 23 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
Do political consultants help candidates for the U.S. House appeal to national or local constituencies? This question is important for understanding whether consultants help candidates represent the ideologically-driven agendas of national parties or the local concerns of interests within their districts. Many consulting firms work contractually as agents of parties, via independent or coordinated expenditures or directly in support of national party operations and activities, while many other consultants, whom I refer to as free agents, have no contractual ties to national party campaign committees. The former type, which I call the party-agent consultant, often has additional clients beyond party committees. This dichotomy pertains to fundraising consultants in particular. Using FEC data on party spending using consultants, candidate spending on consultants, and candidate donor location in the 2010 House elections, I examine the differential impact of party-agent and free-agent fundraising specialists on the degree to which either type raises in-district and out-of-district funds. I assess the hypothesis that the more a candidate spends on party-agent fundraising firms, which is connected to national party donor networks, she will raise more in out-of-district donations than if she hires a free-agent ones, independent of competition and ideology. I evaluate a second hypothesis that candidates who instead spend for the services of free-agent fundraising consultants are more adept at mobilizing in-district donors. To the extent that campaign fundraising is a means of building a coalition of interests whom candidates represent, the use of political consultants by national parties helps candidates engage in surrogate representations but has the side effect of reducing candidate representation of local donor interests.
Keywords: political consultants, fundraising, congressional elections
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