American Government and Politics

Do Non-District Donors Reward Moderates? Evidence from the Senate, 1990-2014

Alex Keena Virginia Commonwealth University
Money from non-district donors represents a growing share of money raised in congressional elections. Yet little research has probed the links between this money and the behavior of legislators in office. I conduct a longitudinal study of the Senate (1990-2014) to understand the links between extremism in floor voting and receipts from out-of-state donors. I find that, among senators not facing reelection during a given two-year congress, there is a negative correlation between extremism and out-of-state donations, which suggests that non-district donors reward “centrists” who vote with the middle of the pack. However, this relationship disappears among senators facing reelection at the end of a congress. These results illuminate the ways in which non-district donors seek to influence the behavior of politicians through their gifts during periods of electoral safety, and suggest that senators behave strategically in order to win favor from non-state donors for support.