Out-of-State Donors and Surrogate Representation in the US Senate

14 June 2023, Version 2
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Since the 1970s, the financing of congressional elections has been dominated by a small network of wealthy donors who give to candidates across the country. Scholarship provides many insights into these donors and their influence, but less work has studied legislators and their mobilization of these donors. I exploit the design of the US Senate (where members serve six-year staggered terms) to investigate the fundraising effects of legislative behavior. Bringing together the literature on political behavior and legislative studies, I find that out-of-state donors flood senators with money during reelection, with the most money going to senators at risk of losing and those with higher legislative effectiveness scores. However, senators not facing reelection raise money from out-of-state donors through bill sponsorship. These results show that out-of-state donors respond to position taking by legislators, and implies that out-of-state donors reward legislators for the issues they prioritize through legislation.


money in politics
campaign finance
legislative studies
political behavior


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