Does the Gift Keep on Giving?: House Leadership PAC Donations Before and After Majority Status
28 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 11, 2016
The proliferation of external campaign financing at the expense of party financing has been thought of as a driver of political polarization. Party leaders face an immense tradeoff financing non-incumbent races when the party is out of power: while they care about gaining control of the House, they do not know how manageable a potential representative will be once elected. Leadership PAC (LPAC) contributions are a major mechanism of leadership control over the financing of congressional campaigns, with the hope of gaining influence over the future behavior of candidates. Using FEC contribution data from the 2006-2012 House elections and a new dataset that estimates candidate ideal points based on campaign finance donations the candidates received, we study differences between contributions of the LPACs of leaders and non-leaders of both parties, with distinction between when the party tries to regain or retain power. We find that the strength of ideologically extreme giving by party leaders is largely contingent on the electoral conditions of the election overall. Minority party leaders are generally incentivized to support more ideologically extreme candidates than when in the majority. We are directly interested in the impact of such donations on the propagation of ideologically extreme representatives, specifically how the weakening of tools of party leadership control over their members propels polarization.
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