Natural Disasters, Moral Hazard, and Special Interests in Congress

49 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2019

Date Written: 2018


We exploit the precise timing of natural disasters to provide empirical evidence on the connection between electoral accountability and politicians’ support for special interests. We show that, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the evening news substantially reduce their coverage of politics. At the very same time, members of Congress become more likely to adopt the positions of special-interest donors as they vote on bills. Our findings are consistent with standard theories of political agency, according to which politicians are more inclined to serve special interests when, for exogenous reasons, they are less intensely monitored.

Keywords: natural disasters, moral hazard, toll-call voting, special interests, Congress

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Carol and Spenkuch, Jörg L. and Yuan, Haishan, Natural Disasters, Moral Hazard, and Special Interests in Congress (2018). CESifo Working Paper No. 7408. Available at SSRN:

Carol Kaplan (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
Not Available (Phone)
Not Available (Fax)

Jörg L. Spenkuch

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States


Haishan Yuan

University of Queensland ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072

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