Sequential Vote Buying

49 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020 Last revised: 1 May 2021

See all articles by Ying Chen

Ying Chen

Johns Hopkins University

Jan Zapal

CERGE-EI; IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 28, 2020


To enact a policy, a leader needs votes from committee members with heterogeneous opposition intensities. She sequentially offers transfers in exchange for votes. The transfers are either promises paid only if the policy passes or paid up front. With transfer promises, a vote costs nearly zero. With up-front payments, a vote can cost significantly more than zero, but the leader is better off with up-front payments. The leader does not necessarily buy the votes of those least opposed. The opposition structure most challenging to the leader involves either a homogeneous committee or a committee with two homogenous groups. Our results provide an explanation for several empirical regularities: lobbying of strongly opposed legislators, the Tullock Paradox and expansion of the whip system in the U.S. House concurrent with ideological homogenization of parties.

Keywords: vote buying, legislative bargaining, endogenous sequencing, preference heterogeneity, transfer promise, up-front payment, contracting with externalities

JEL Classification: C78, D72, P16

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ying and Zapal, Jan, Sequential Vote Buying (May 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Ying Chen

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

Baltimore, MD 20036-1984
United States

Jan Zapal (Contact Author)

CERGE-EI ( email )

Politickych veznu 7
Prague, 111 21
Czech Republic


IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE ( email )

Barcelona, 08193


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