DP2847 | Elections with Contribution-Maximizing Candidates

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18/06/2001

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Abstract

Much of the analysis of campaign contributions, in accordance with the Downsian model, has supposed that candidates seek contributions for electoral purposes. This paper takes the opposite approach, by assuming that each candidate aims to maximize the contributions he collects. We let a citizen contribute to a candidate with the aim of increasing that candidate's chances of winning. These assumptions generate several plausible results: in equilibrium citizens make campaign contributions; the positions the candidates adopt differ; the willingness of the rich to make larger contributions than the poor moves the candidates to adopt positions the wealthy prefer. A cap on political contributions reduces spending by voters, but also increases the divergence in the platforms adopted by the candidates. If some voters are richer than others, a cap will benefit the poor and hurt the rich, although the overall welfare implications are ambiguous.