Money in Exile: Campaign Contributions and Committee Access
Understanding how money influences the legislative process is essential for assessing American democracy, but problems of endogeneity, legality, and observational equivalence make it difficult to isolate the effect of contributions on policy. We seek to answer long-standing questions about the influence of money in Congress by exploiting a congressional procedure (committee exile) that exogenously varies a member’s influence over the policy-making process. We leverage exile as an identification strategy to show that business interests seek short-term access to influential legislators. Industries overseen by the committee decrease contributions to exiled legislators and instead direct their contributions to new committee members from the opposite party. Partisan interests, in contrast, attempt to influence electoral outcomes—boosting contributions to exiled members. Together, we provide evidence that corporations and business PACs use donations to acquire immediate access and favor—suggesting they at least...
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