Incumbents and Challengers on a Level Playing Field: Assessing the Impact of Campaign Finance in Brazil



This article assesses the impact of campaign spending on incumbent and challenger vote shares in elections to the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. I argue that incumbents and challengers gain equally from campaign spending. This contrasts with the prominent argument about U.S. House elections that incumbents gain little from spending while challengers gain a great deal. In the U.S., incumbents gain little because being in office generates significant name recognition and additional spending suffers quickly from diminishing returns. In contrast, challengers gain a lot because they start the campaign from scratch. In Brazil, because incumbency provides fewer benefits than in the U.S., both incumbents and challengers must spend money to increase their name recognition and both benefit from spending. My findings imply that campaign spending limits in Brazil would encourage rather than restrict competition, and they point to the importance of assessing the relative advantages of incumbency when assessing the impact of campaign spending.