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Thompson, Cassie, and Jewell: A sacred cow or just a lot of bull

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Thompson, Cassie, and Jewell. 1994. A sacred cow or just a lot of bull? Party and PAC money in state legislative elections. Political Resesarch Quarterly 47:223-247.


PACs and parties donate differently. PACs donate primarily to (1) winning candidates and (2) winning (majority) parties; their goal is access (to the likely winners), not change (in the legislative balance). Parties, on the other hand, want to get or secure a majority. Thus, minority parties channel their funding to challengers, and majority parties channel their funding to incumbents. (Presumably, the minority parties are proactive and the majority parties are reactive--but the authors don't say.)

Big contribution: risk. (otherwise, you would expect both majority and minority parties to invest in both challengers and incumbents in marginal districts). Minorities are risk-acceptant in investing in challengers; majorities are risk-adverse in protecting incumbents. (Otherwise, both parties would invest in marginal districts--for either incumbents or challengers). (Similar to prospect theory.)


They use data that they compiled from the late 1980s to examine Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Pennsylvania is a competitive state with mostly safe seats. New Jersey is competitive with many districts that are competitive, and North Carolina is dominated by Democrats (not competitive state) but the Republicans are making advances (competitive seats). Spending, from high to low, is: NJ, Penn., and NC. Penn. uses single member districts, New Jersey has multimember, and NC is mixed. Their campaign finance laws vary, with NJ being the only one to allow direct contributions from unions, etc.

CONCERNS (from handout)

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Thompson, Joel (author)Cassie, William (author)Jewell, Malcolm (author)American PoliticsElectionsCampaign Finance

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