Who Gave Soft Money? The Effect of Interest Group Resources on Political Contributions


D. E. Apollonio is a Legacy Postdoctoral Fellow of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, (dapollon@itsa.ucsf.edu). Raymond J. La Raja is assistant professor of political science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9277, (laraja@polsci.umass.edu).


We consider the effect of various organizational resources on political contributions. Using a unique data set of soft money contributors from 1997 to 1998, our resource-based model examines how capital, membership, and experience influence the decision to give money to political parties. By observing decision making in a relatively unconstrained regulatory environment typified by the soft money regime, we demonstrate the conventional wisdom that financial resources determine the size of political contributions. Financial wealth, however, does not predict whether an organization will make a contribution in the first place. Instead, we show that a lack of alternative resources makes it more likely that organizations will spend money on politics. These findings have important implications for determining who benefits under various campaign finance rules.