Minimizing Whose Influence? How Rejecting PAC Contributions Affects Contribution Patterns


Do pledges to reject corporate PAC contributions minimize corporate influence in elections? I address this question with campaign finance data for Congressional candidates in the 2018 elections. While I find that candidates who pledge to reject corporate PAC contributions receive fewer contributions from business PACs, I also find that they substitute these funds with small-dollar contributions, large-dollar contributions from individuals affiliated with business interests, and large-dollar contributions from individuals outside their districts. These findings support the claim that voters are motivated to donate by anti-corporate PAC pledges, as candidates hope, but that these candidates likely substitute corporate PAC contributions with funds from sources beyond small-dollar donations. This study is the first to examine the effects of rejecting corporate PAC contributions on contribution patterns and the first test of the claim that anti-corporate PAC pledges will increase small-dollar donations.