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Hogan: The costs of representation in state legislatures

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Hogan. 2000. The costs of representation in state legislatures: Explaining variation in campaign spending. Social Science Quarterly 81:941-956.

MAIN CONTRIBUTION

People disagree as to whether campaign finance laws actually reduce campaign spending, or whether interest groups simply find alternative ways of channeling money to candidates. By analyzing 3,253 contested legislative races in 27 states, Hogan finds that campaign finance laws do reduce campaign spending, but not by as much as we might hope (Tables 2 and 3). In addition, campaign finance laws reduce spending disparities between challengers and incumbents (Table 4).

VARIABLES AND THEIR EFFECTS

  • Y: Spending per eligible voter (as shown in Table 1, this ranges from around $0.40 to almost $2). Since this variable is so straightforward, it's pretty easy to interpret the results in Table 3. Go check it out.
  • Main X: Campaign finance laws. Dummied out as (1) whether the state has contribution limits and (2) whether the state provides public financing. Contribution limits reduce incumbent spending but do not affect challengers or open races. Public financing dramatically reduces incumbent spending.
  • Candidate-level controls:
    • Incumbent/open seat dummies ("challenger" is omitted category)
    • Leadership index: 0 for backbenchers, 1 for committee chairs, 2 for leaders (leaders spend more)
    • Majority/minority dummy (majority party members spend more. PACs (who want influence) spend more on majority parties.)
  • District-level controls:
    • Number of opponents in the primary (increases overall campaign spending if you have to win a primary first)
    • Competitiveness of previous general election (increases spending)
    • Opponent spending (increases spending, especially for incumbents. Incumbents match challengers almost dollar-for-dollar, though challengers match incumbents at a substantially lower margin.)
  • System-level controls:
    • Legislative professionalism (incumbents spend more, challengers spend less. Implies that professionalism increases incumbents' advantages.)
    • Chamber competitiveness (weak effects)

FUTURE RESEARCH (Author's Suggestions)

  • Consider additional variables (e.g. demographic features)
  • Specify legal variations more precisely
  • Effects of variations in campaign spending (e.g. on participation rates, vote margins, and entry of high-quality candidates)

CONCERNS

  • Why not parse out the campaign finance law variables a bit? (e.g. do laws target party donations, PAC donations, individual donations?) Hogan claims he can't with only 27 states. But does that matter when you have over 3000 observations?
  • Is the leadership index really isomorphic?
  • In states that have campaign contribution limits, do PACs resort to independent expenditures on a candidate's behalf? These probably wouldn't show up in Hogan's dependent variable, but perhaps they should, given his goals.
  • What about candidate quality?