Presenter: Eleanor Neff Powell
Abstract: Corporations and political action committees (PACs) flood congressional elections with money. Understanding why they contribute is essential for determining how money in- fluences policy in Congress. To test theories of contributors’ motivations we exploit committee exile—the involuntary removal of committee members after a party loses a sizable number of seats, and the losses are unevenly distributed across committees. We use exile to show that business interests seek short-term access to influential leg- islators. Sectors regulated by the committee decrease contributions after a legislator is exiled, instead PACs from regulated sectors direct their contributions to new com- mittee 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 anticipate that the donations will influence policy.