The Check Is in the Mail: Interdistrict Funding Flows in Congressional Elections

Authors


  • For helpful comments on this research, the authors thank Alan Glennon, Paul Herrnson, Iris Hui, Antoine Yoshinaka, and workshop participants at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota. We are grateful to Kimberly Karnes and Sadia Sorathia for research assistance.

James G. Gimpel is professor of political science, University of Maryland, 3140 Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (JGimpel@
gvpt.umd.edu). Frances E. Lee is associate professor of political science, University of Maryland, 3140 Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (FLee@gvpt.umd.edu). Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz is a graduate student in government and politics, University of Maryland, 3140 Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742 (shannapm@gmail.com).

Abstract

This article analyzes the financial ties between congressional candidates and individual donors residing outside those candidates' districts. Congressional campaigns today rely more heavily on nonresidents than in the past, with contests in the typical district drawing more than two-thirds of individual donations from nonresidents. Empirical results reveal that nonresident contributions are primarily partisan and strategic in nature, rather than access-oriented or expressive/identity-based. Funds are efficiently redistributed from a small number of highly educated, wealthy congressional districts to competitive districts anywhere in the country. Big donors direct funds where they can make a difference for party control of seats, even if those investments are hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.

Ancillary