Assessing the Potential Effects of Citizens United: Evidence from the States
36 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 27 Mar 2013
Date Written: February 21, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC was one of its most controversial in decades. Critics of the decision argued it would lead to a flood of corporate and union cash that would warp electoral and policy outcomes. We test for this possibility by exploiting the variation in campaign finance laws at the state level from 1977 through 2006. Through an analysis of three policy outcomes of interest to businesses and unions over three decades — the degree of liberalism among state elected officials; the relative state minimum wage compared to the federal minimum wage; and the degree of pre-transfer income inequality in a state — we find minimal effects for the overall campaign finance regulatory regimes in general and corporate and union independent expenditures specifically on public policy outcomes. These findings suggest that critics’ fears about the possible effects of Citizens United at the national level may be overstated.
Keywords: Citizens United, campaign finance, business and politics
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