The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Working Papers

Raymond J. La Raja and Brian F. Schaffner. 2103.  "Do Party-Centered Campaign Finance Laws Increase Funding for Moderates and Challengers?"  Prepared for Presentation at the 2014 Meetings of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, January 8-11, 2014. 


We examine how campaign finance laws affect the flow of political contributions to different kinds of candidates. We posit a “party-centered” theory that contribution laws that make it easy for political parties to finance candidates should result in a system that tilts financing more toward moderates rather than ideologues, and challengers rather than incumbents. Using data from the National Institute of Money in State Politics we observe the flow of money to different types of candidates across American states with different laws.   Our system-level approach shows how the source of funds to candidates varies depending on the ideology of the incumbent and her incumbency status.  We find that parties uniquely invest in challengers who also tend to be moderates, and that state laws favoring parties increase financing for these types of candidates.  Our results have implications for two commonly perceived problems in American politics, namely that incumbents rarely lose and the major parties appear increasingly polarized.  Given that parties in most states play a marginal role in financing politics, we conclude that campaign finance laws that are more “party-centered” might attenuate these twin problems.

NOTE: This draft is intended for a chapter in a book manuscript about campaign finance in the American states. This material is based upon work supported by the Hewlett Foundation.