Campaign contributions and access

David Austen-Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

223 Scopus citations


An important and pervasive view of campaign contributions is that they are given to promote access to successful candidates under circumstances when such access would not ordinarily be given. In this story, access is valuable as it offers groups the opportunity to influence legislative decisions through the provision of policy-relevant information. Under complete information regarding donors’ policy preferences, I argue that this model predicts a negative relationship between contributions and the extent to which the groups’ and the recipient legislators’ preferences are similar. However, one of the more robust empirical findings in the literature is that this relationship is positive. Relaxing the informational assumption on donors’ preferences, I reexamine the access story with a model in which campaign contributions can act as signals of policy preference and the (informational) value of access to any agent is endogenous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-581
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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