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Systemic Effects of Campaign Spending: Evidence from Corporate Contribution Bans in US State Legislatures*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2015


In this paper, I examine the systemic effects of campaign spending, looking at outcomes at the level of the legislature rather than the individual seat. Using a difference-in-differences design, I show that state-level corporate campaign contribution bans have a large effect on electoral outcomes at the legislature level. A 1 percentage-point increase in the Democratic (or Republican) party’s share of all contributions in an electoral cycle is estimated to increase its share of the legislature by roughly half a percentage point. Policy outcomes as well as campaign finance reforms occur at the legislature level; understanding the systemic rather than individual-level effect of campaign spending is therefore directly relevant. Aggregating estimated effects of individual-level campaign finance would not produce this same estimate owing to spillovers and other strategic dynamics. Taken together, the analyses suggest that contribution bans have important electoral effects and thus point to the systemic effects of campaign spending.

Original Articles
© The European Political Science Association 2015 

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Andrew B. Hall is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA 94305 (, A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2013 Midwest Political Science Association Conference. The author acknowledges financial support from the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. For comments, the author thanks Scott Ashworth, Daniel Carpenter, James Feigenbaum, Alexander Fouirnaies, Anthony Fowler, Claudine Gay, Michael Gill, Donna Hall, Gary King, John Marshall, Stephen Pettigrew, Ken Shepsle, John Sides, Jim Snyder, and Ariel White, along with participants of the Harvard American Politics Workshop and the Harvard Graduate Student Political Economy Workshop. For data, the author thanks Jim Snyder.


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