Do Unlimited Campaign Contributions Help Republicans?

Jan 25 '10

Lee Drutman, last seen here guest-blogging on corporate lobbying, sends along this quick analysis:

bq. Will the _Citizens United_ decision help Republicans more, since they’ve traditionally raised more money from corporations, who can now spend unlimited amounts?

bq. As the New York Times notes, 24 states ban or restrict corporate contributions, and 26 allow unlimited contributions. So do Republicans do better in those states with unlimited contributions?

bq. One way to assess this is to run some very simple regressions. We would expect that the Democrats’ share of seats in state legislatures in 2009 would be strongly predicted by Obama’s vote share in 2008. It is.

bq. But what if we added a dummy variable for whether a state bans or restricts campaign contributions into this regression? In state houses, having a ban or restriction improves the Democrat share of seats by three percentage points on average, but the result is not statistically significant (b=.03; se=.03). In state senates, it has no effect (b=.01; se=.04).

This provides a cautionary note to fears that unlimited contributions will inevitably create a partisan bias in election outcomes. See also this piece by David Kirkpatrick in Sunday’s NY Times, which nicely digests the challenges in proving the consequences of campaign contributions.

But Lee notes:

bq. On the other hand, there may be an effect on the policy positions of different parties, particularly the Democrats. This will definitely be worth watching.

More to come on this decision — and political science research on campaign finance — this week.