The Wild Hunt: Assessing District-Level Disclosed Congressional Campaign Spending After Citizens United
Singh, Jyot H
Wise, Andrew S
With a 5-4 ruling in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court in 2010 voided all legal brakes restraining political campaigns’ financial intakes and outlays as long as they fell under the category of ‘independent expenditures’. I examine the evolution of aspiring U.S. Representatives’ disclosed spending at a district level in the four election cycles before and the four cycles after Citizens United. I hypothesize that removing campaign finance limits reduces the number of candidates in a race and creates higher campaign spending that helps incumbents retain their seats, but that it also facilitates higher contributions to campaigns that can lessen the incumbent’s chances. I conduct two regression analyses on campaigns’ reported receipts and disbursements to the Federal Election Commission to ascertain how the various components of their finances, and whether or not being ‘treated’ by having local campaign finance restrictions voided by Citizens United, impacted the crowdedness of the races and the incumbent’s chances of keeping their seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. An ordinary least squares (OLS) analysis on race crowdedness supports the hypothesis that Citizens United has deflated the number of candidates in congressional fields. A logistic regression analysis of the chances the incumbent candidate was re-elected undermines my hypothesis: the Citizens United treatment indicator is insignificant in the model as constructed. However, both models support my hypothesis that higher contributions hurt incumbents’ prospects by increasing the number of candidates in the field and lowering their odds of re-election.
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