Even If It’s Not Bribery: The Case for Campaign Finance Reform
36 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 12 Aug 2009
Date Written: February 1, 2009
We develop a dynamic multidimensional signaling model of campaign finance in which candidates can signal their ability by enacting policy and/or by raising and spending campaign funds, both of which are costly. Our model departs from the existing literature in that candidates do not exchange policy influence for campaign contributions, rather, they must decide how to allocate their efforts between policymaking and fundraising. If high-ability candidates are better policymakers and better fundraisers then they will raise and spend campaign funds even if voters care only about legislation. Voters' inability to reward or punish politicians based on past policy allows fundraising to be used to signal ability at the expense of voter welfare. Campaign finance reform alleviates this phenomenon and improves voter welfare at the expense of politicians. Thus, we expect successful politicians to oppose true campaign finance reform. We also show our model is consistent with findings in the empirical and theoretical campaign finance literature.
Keywords: campaign finance, signaling, policy reform
JEL Classification: D72, D82
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation