Does Political Ambiguity Pay? Corporate Campaign Contributions and the Rewards to Legislator Reputation

45 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2000 Last revised: 2 Apr 2001

See all articles by Randall Kroszner

Randall Kroszner

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Thomas Stratmann

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy; George Mason University - Mercatus Center; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: January 2000

Abstract

Do politicians tend to follow a strategy of ambiguity in their policy positions or a strategy of reputational development to reduce uncertainty about where they stand? Ambiguity could allow a legislator to avoid alienating constituents and to play rival interests off against each other to maximize campaign contributions. Alternatively, reputational clarity could help to reduce uncertainty about a candidate and lead to high campaign contributions from favored interests. We outline a theory that considers conditions under which a politician would and would not prefer reputational development and policy-stance clarity in the context of repeat dealing with special interests. Our proxy for reputational development is the percent of repeat givers to a legislator. Using data on corporate political action committee contributions (PACs) to members of the U.S. House during the seven electoral cycles from 1983/84 to 1995/96, we find that legislators do not appear to follow a strategy of ambiguity and that high reputational development is rewarded with high PAC contributions.

Suggested Citation

Kroszner, Randall and Stratmann, Thomas, Does Political Ambiguity Pay? Corporate Campaign Contributions and the Rewards to Legislator Reputation (January 2000). NBER Working Paper No. w7475, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=211909

Randall Kroszner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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Thomas Stratmann

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy ( email )

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George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Germany

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