Debt in Political Campaigns

70 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2016 Last revised: 11 May 2020

Date Written: May 7, 2020


We analyze the incentives created by debt financing in political campaigns. Debt is a significant source of funding for political campaigns, with almost half of all campaigns relying on some form of debt. Moreover, indebted politicians raise more funds in subsequent elections, especially from special interest groups. Consistent with votes-for-money arrangements, indebted politicians vote for the benefit of interest groups that fund their reelection campaigns. The findings support the hypothesis that debt creates legislative distortions because it induces indebted politicians to take policy positions that may deviate from local constituents’ interests. The paper uncovers an unexplored role of debt financing.

Keywords: debt financing; voting behavior; political campaigns; incentives

JEL Classification: D72, G32

Suggested Citation

Ovtchinnikov, Alexei V. and Valta, Philip, Debt in Political Campaigns (May 7, 2020). HEC Paris Research Paper No. FIN-2016-1165, Available at SSRN: or

Alexei V. Ovtchinnikov (Contact Author)

HEC Paris - Finance Department ( email )

1 rue de la Liberation
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351

Philip Valta

University of Bern ( email )

Engehaldenstrasse 4
Bern, 3012

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