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Do Campaign Finance Reforms Insulate Incumbents from Competition? New Evidence from State Legislative Elections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2020

Jordan Butcher
University of Missouri
Jeffrey Milyo
University of Missouri


Variations in state campaign finance regulations across states and over time provide an opportunity to test the effects of reforms on the electoral success of incumbent state legislators. We use the most recent state legislative election returns dataset to test whether state campaign finance reforms help or hinder incumbents. Our analysis of nearly 66,000 contests in 33 years reveals that campaign contribution limits and partial public financing have little impact on incumbent reelection prospects. However, full public financing and prohibitions on corporate independent expenditures significantly increase the probability of incumbent reelection.

Symposium: State Legislative Elections of 2018
© American Political Science Association 2020

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