Money and ideology: Evidence from candidate manifestos
Abstract: Do campaign contributions influence politicians? In this article, we study the impact of corporate donations on ideology and political discourse. We construct a novel dataset that combines the campaign manifestos issued by every candidate running for a seat in the French parliament with data on the amount and origin of their campaign contributions. We exploit an exogenous historical shock on corporate donations to estimate their causal impact on the content of campaign communication. Combining a difference-in-differences approach with computational text analysis, we show that receiving more donations from corporate donors encourages candidates to advertise their local presence over national politics during the campaign. We also find evidence that donations lead candidates from extreme parties to moderate their rhetoric -- including shifts in the policy topics they advertise. Our findings may reflect a "quid-pro-quo effect" between donors and politicians, but they may also result from an "electoral effect": receiving expressive contributions from corporate donors affects the content of campaign messages because it changes candidates' perception of which issues matter most to voters. According to our findings, campaign finance regulations may alter the information made available to voters through their impact on candidates' rhetoric.
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