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Member Attributes and Corporate Contributions to United States Senators: Do Environmental Compliance Costs Matter?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2009

James L. Regens
Affiliation:
Tulane University
Ronald Keith Gaddie
Affiliation:
Tulane University
Euel Elliott
Affiliation:
University of Texas at Dallas

Abstract

This study examines corporate contributions through political action committees (PACs) to US Senate incumbents from 1978 to 1988 by those industries which have sustained substantial environmental compliance costs and consequently have an incentive to develop relatively precise targeting strategies. The findings suggest that party, ideology, regulatory costs, and challenger attributes play especially important roles in corporate allocation strategies. These industries pursue relatively precise, sophisticated campaign contribution strategies, which reflect these influences.

Résumé

L'étude porte sur les dons financiers consentis par « political action committees » aux sénateurs des États-Unis en exercice entre 1978 et 1988 par les industries qui ont encouru des frais substantiels afin de se mettre en accord avec les lois sur l'environnement, et qui par conséquent ont intérêt à développer des stratégies relativement précises concernant leurs objectifs politiques. Les conclusions suggèrent que les partis, les idéologies, les frais d'administration et les caractéristiques des concurrents exercent une influence particulière sur les stratégies d'allocation de fonds pratiquées par ces sociétés. Ces facteurs expliquent pourquoi ces industries recourent à des stratégies relativement précises et élaborées touchant les contributions aux campagnes électorales.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 1993

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References

1 Becker, G., “A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 98 (1983), 371400CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Tollison, R. D., “Rent Seeking: A Survey,” Kyklos 35 (1982), 575602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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6 We are forced to exclude the electric utility industry, although it is a significant cost-bearer, since comparable data on its capital as well as operating and mainte nance expenses were not readily available for all years covered by this research. See also Regens, and Elliott, , “Political and Economic Influences.”Google Scholar

7 The annual share of total corporate PAC money contributed to Senate incumbents by these industries ranged from a high of 19.5 percent in 1978 to a low of 10.9 per cent in 1980. In addition, these industries accounted for 13.8 per cent of corporate PAC contributions to incumbents in 1982; 17.6 per cent in 1984; 15.3 per cent in 1986; and 11.4 per cent of corporate contributions in 1988.

8 Fenno, R. F. Jr., The United States Senate: A Bicameral Perspective (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1982).Google Scholar

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10 See Evans, D., “Oil PACs and Aggressive Contribution Strategies,” Journal of Politics 50 (1988), 1047–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Poole, K. J., Romer, T. and Rosenthal, H., “The Revealed Preferences of Political Action Committees,” American Economic Review 77 (1987), 298302Google Scholar; Eismeier, T. J. and Pollock, P. H. III, “Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections: The Role of Political Action Committees,” American Journal of Political Science 30 (1986), 197213CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Gopoian, D., “What Makes PACs Tick? An Analysis of the Allocation Patterns of Economic Interest Groups,” American Journal of Political Science 28 (1984), 259–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

11 The folding problem arises when a legislator cannot be ranked along the full continuum of the index. Poole demonstrates that most groups evaluating Congress can be arrayed along a single liberal-conservative continuum. Groups whose position is near the centre of this continuum on key issues may find the scores they assign a member to be flawed relative to the member's actual position. By “unfolding” group scores and regressing the unfolded and folded scores for individual members against each other, the accuracy of folded scores can be ascertained. Specifically, the better the fit between the two indices, the less measurement bias attributable to potential folding. Senate LCV scores demonstrate a strong relationship between folded and unfolded values, which leads us to conclude that a folding problem does not exist (see Poole, K. T., “Dimensions of Interest Group Evaluation of the U.S. Senate, 1969–1978,” American Journal of Political Science 25 [1981], 4967CrossRefGoogle Scholar). For an additional perspective on congressional voting indices, see Smith, E. R. A. N., Herrera, R. and Herrera, C. L., “The Measurement Characteristics of Congressional Roll-Call Indexes,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 15 (1990), 283–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Munger, , “A Simple Test”Google Scholar; but see also Regens, J. L., Elliott, E. and Gaddie, R. K., “Regulatory Costs, Committee Jurisdictions, and Corporate PAC Contributions,” Social Science Quarterly 72 (1991), 751–60.Google Scholar

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14 Sinclair, B., “The Distribution of Committee Positions in the U.S. Senate: Explaining Institutional Change,” American Journal of Political Science 32 (1988), 276301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

15 See Munger, , “A Simple Test,”Google Scholar and Regens, , Elliott, and Gaddie, , “Regulatory Costs.”Google Scholar

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20 Jacobson, G. L. and Kernell, S., Strategy and Choice in Congressional Elections (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).Google Scholar

21 Squire, P., “Challengers in U.S. Senate Elections,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 14 (1989), 531–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Green, D. P. and Krasno, J. S., “Salvation for the Spendthrift Incumbent: Reestimating the Effects of Campaign Spending in House Elections,” American Journal of Political Science 32 (1988), 884907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22 The Green and Krasno scale incorporates professional, celebrity and elective and appointive political experience into one measure, with a maximum score of 8. Candidates who have held prior elective office are coded = 4. A candidate with elective experience has the score increased by one for each of the following attributes: incumbency; holding high office (Governor/House/Senate); prior run for this office (Senate); and celebrity status. Candidates who have not held prior office start at zero, with a maximum score of 7. Score increases by an additional + 1 for: party activist; having run for prior office; having run for high office (Governor/House/Senate); prior Senate campaign; professional status; appointive political office; and celebrity status. Biographic data on challengers were obtained from various election preview issues of CQ Weekly Report.

23 See Pindyck, R. S. and Rubinfeld, D. L., Econometric Models and Economic Forecasts (2nd ed.; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981).Google Scholar

24 Waterman, R. W., Oppenheimer, B. I. and Stimson, J. A., “Sequence and Equilibrium in Congressional Elections: An Integrated Approach,” Journal of Politics 53 (1991), 372–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

25 Since there was a small number of senators serving on both primary and secondary jurisdiction committees, some “double-counting” took place. Therefore, we specified a model in which any senator serving on a relevant legislative oversight committee is coded 1, otherwise 0. Membership is statistically significant (t= 1.64) and the sign is in the appropriate direction. The coefficients and signs of the other variables are virtually the same as shown in Table 1.

26 See Parker, G. R. and Parker, S. L., “Factions in Committees: The U.S. House of Representatives,” American Political Science Review 78 (1979), 6476.Google Scholar

27 But see Grier, K. B., Munger, M. C. and Torrent, G. M., “Allocation Patterns of PAC Monies: The U.S. Senate,” Public Choice 67 (1990), 111–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

28 See Eismeier, T. J. and Pollock, P. H. III, “Politics and Markets: Corporate Money in American National Elections,” British Journal of Political Science 16 (1986), 287309CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The normal relationship between challenger quality and financial quality does not apply to the giving by these PACs. The bivariate relationship between experience and money from these PACs is very weak (R2 = .04).

29 See Grenzke, J., “PACs and the Congressional Supermarket: The Currency Is Complex,” American Journal of Political Science 33 (1989), 124CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Masters, M. F. and Keim, G. D., “Determinants of PAC Participation among Large Corporations,” Journal of Politics 47 (1985), 1158–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Jacobson, G. L., Money in Congressional Elections (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).Google Scholar

30 See Eismeier, and Pollock, , “Strategy and Choice”Google Scholar; Eismeier, and Pollock, , “Politics and Markets”Google Scholar; Jacobson, , “Parties and PACs”Google Scholar; and Sabato, L. J., PAC Power: Inside the World of Political Action Committees (New York: Norton, 1985).Google Scholar

31 While the industries examined in this research are very concerned with environ mental legislation, they are concerned with other issues as well. As a result, we recognize that corporate PACs affiliated with firms in those sectors are likely to be driven by their entire range of high priorities in allocating contributions.

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