Small Donors in Congressional Elections

30 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2014

See all articles by Tyler James Culberson

Tyler James Culberson

George Mason University

Michael P. McDonald

University of Florida

Suzanne M. Robbins

University of Florida - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 3, 2014

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Culberson, Tyler James and McDonald, Michael P. and Robbins, Suzanne M., Small Donors in Congressional Elections (March 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2403861 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2403861

Tyler James Culberson

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Michael P. McDonald (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

Suzanne M. Robbins

University of Florida - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 117325
Gainesville, FL 32611-7325
United States

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