Follow the Party: Super PACs and the Political Party Network
Koch, Justin Alan
In 2010, two U.S. court decisions enabled political groups to raise and spend money in unlimited amounts. These groups, called Super PACs, are known for the vast sums of money they spend in elections. However, less attention has been paid to the effects that these groups have had on the political party network. This dissertation addresses this disparity by searching for party behavior among Super PACs. It draws on an original qualitative dataset, a social network dataset pairing Super PACs with the candidates they support, and finally a dataset of Super PAC spending in federal elections from 2010 through 2016.I find that “single race” groups, which spend money supporting one candidate for a single election, have steadily increased in frequency over time, and are now the most common type. Such groups exist only as an arm of the candidate they support. However, network analysis determined that party groups tend to be the most central. Finally, I found that party group aid was not sufficient to improve election outcomes, while overall group aid was an excellent predictor of a candidate’s electoral success.This dissertation offers support for recent political party theory, particularly the extended party network, while exploring a heretofore understudied element of U.S. campaign finance.
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