Small Donors in Congressional Elections
30 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 3, 2014
Candidates raise substantial sums of money to compete in modern federal elections. Many electoral reform efforts focus on curbing the perceived undue influence of campaign donations by the wealthy. An intriguing new reform direction encourages small donor participation. To understand the potential effects of such reforms we utilize new internal Federal Elections Commission campaign finance data to examine patterns of small donor giving to candidates in the 2006 to 2010 congressional elections. We find encouraging small donors may be democratizing by expanding the scope of participation, in that the supply of small donors is unrelated to income levels. Unlike large donors who tend to give to incumbents, small donors give indiscriminately to incumbents, their challengers, and open seat candidates. Small donors give for the instrumental reason to affect the most competitive elections. However, we temper reformers' enthusiasm, finding that ideologically extreme incumbents tend to raise more money from small donors.
Keywords: Small donors, FEC, congressional, campaigns
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