Buying a Blind Eye: Campaign Donations, Regulatory Enforcement, and Deforestation in Colombia

67 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2021 Last revised: 17 Mar 2022

See all articles by Robin Harding

Robin Harding

University of Oxford

Mounu Prem

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Nelson A. Ruiz

University of Oxford

David L. Vargas

Inter-American Development Bank

Date Written: March 16, 2022

Abstract

While existing work has demonstrated that campaign donations can buy access to benefits such as favorable legislation and preferential contracting, we highlight another use of campaign contributions: buying reductions in regulatory enforcement. Specifically, we argue that in return for campaign contributions, Colombian mayors who rely on donor-funding (compared to those who do not) choose not to enforce sanctions against illegal deforestation activities. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that deforestation is significantly higher in municipalities that elect donor-funded as opposed to self-funded politicians. Further analysis shows that only part of this effect can be explained by differences in contracting practices by donor-funded mayors. Instead, evidence of heterogeneity in the effects according to the presence of alternative formal and informal enforcement institutions, and analysis of fire clearance, support the interpretation that campaign contributions buy reductions in the enforcement of environmental regulations.

Keywords: Campaign donations, Deforestation, Regulatory enforcement, Colombia

JEL Classification: D72, O13, P48

Suggested Citation

Harding, Robin and Prem, Mounu and Ruiz, Nelson and Vargas, David, Buying a Blind Eye: Campaign Donations, Regulatory Enforcement, and Deforestation in Colombia (March 16, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3869953 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3869953

Robin Harding

University of Oxford ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Mounu Prem (Contact Author)

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) ( email )

Via Due Macelli, 73
Rome, 00187
Italy

Nelson Ruiz

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

David Vargas

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

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