Citizens United: A Theoretical Evaluation
25 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 4, 2016
Following the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United v FEC, interest groups engaging in outside spending can receive unlimited contributions from unions and corporations. Critics of the decision have rejected the notion, espoused by the majority opinion, that outside spending does not corrupt or distort the electoral process. Fewer, however, have examined the decision’s implications under the Court’s assumptions. Using a game-theoretic model of electoral competition, we show that informative outside spending from a group whose policy preferences are partially aligned with the electorate may reduce voter welfare. This negative effect is more likely to arise when the value of the interest group’s information is large, or congruence between voters and the interest group is high. Further, the regulatory environment produced by the Court’s decision is inefficient: the electorate would be better off if either outside spending were banned or coordination between candidates and the interest group allowed.
Keywords: Citizens United, Outside Spending, Supreme Court
JEL Classification: D70, D72, D74, D78, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation