The Incidence and Timing of PAC Contributions to Incumbent U.S. House Members, 1993‐94

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.3162/036298005X201671
AuthorPETER M. RADCLIFFE,BRANDON L. BARTELS,JANET M. BOX‐STEFFENSMEIER
Date01 November 2005
Published date01 November 2005
549Incidence and Timing of PAC Contributions
LEGISLATIVE STUDIES QUARTERLY, XXX, 4, November 2005 549
JANET M. BOX-STEFFENSMEIER
The Ohio State University
PETER M. RADCLIFFE
University of Minnesota
BRANDON L. BARTELS
The Ohio State University
The Incidence and Timing
of PAC Contributions to Incumbent
U.S. House Members, 1993–94
In this article, we discuss how donor and recipient characteristics affected the
incidence and timing of political action committee (PAC) contributions to incumbent
members of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1993–94 election cycle. We
contribute to the campaign finance literature by modeling the timing of contributions,
which is important because timing affects the perception of political actors about the
competitiveness of elections and the loci of power among members of Congress,
interest groups, and between members of Congress and interest groups. Split-
population event history models allow us to compare and contrast determinants of
whether and when contributions are made across various types and sizes of PACs.
Decision making in politics involves the choice of not only what
action to take, but also when to take it. We concur with Fenno (1986)
that if we are to explain political outcomes, studying when events occur
is as important as studying what occurred (1986, 9). Context and
sequence are important factors to analyze, and studies of legislative
activity have increasingly focused on timing. In the campaign finance
literature in particular, there is a consensus that “the timing of financial
transactions can be critical to their impact, both to the contributor and
to the recipient” (Biersack and Wilcox 1990, 236; Glasser and White
1999; Jacobson 1992).
In this article, we discuss how donor and recipient characteristics
affected the incidence and timing of political action committee (PAC)
contributions to incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representa-
tives during the 1993–94 election cycle. We contribute to the campaign
finance literature by explicitly modeling the timing of contributions, which
550 Box-Steffensmeier, Radcliffe, and Bartels
is important because timing affects the perception of political actors
about the competitiveness of elections and the loci of power among
members of Congress, interest groups, and between members of
Congress and interest groups. We also offer a methodological contri-
bution by using a split-population duration model, which relaxes the
assumption that every PAC-incumbent dyad will exchange a
contribution, to estimate the effects of candidate and PAC characteristics
on both the incidence and timing of contributions. We compare and
contrast the determinants of whether and when contributions are made
within an election cycle across various types and sizes of PACs.
In Section 1, we review existing work on the timing decisions of
PACs. We also describe the timing considerations of candidates and
PACs, which we use to investigate contributions in our dataset. In
Section 2, we present the data, measurement, and methods. We present
the empirical results in Section 3, making explicit comparisons about
the effects of various factors on the incidence and timing of contribu-
tions from labor and corporate, small and large PACs. We conclude by
discussing the implications of these results.
1. Feeding the Political Money Machine1
Candidates want their money early. This fact was repeated time
and time again by PAC fund-raisers for congressional candidates and
by PAC managers.2 The importance of early money in political
campaigns inspires the names of groups like EMILY’s List, whose
name is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” with the associated
slogan, “It helps the dough rise.”
Jacobson (1992) emphasizes the importance of the timing of
contributions to candidates: “In general, money available early in the
campaign is put to much better use than money received later. Early
money is seed money for the entire campaign effort; it is needed to
organize, plan, and raise more money” (1992, 78–79). We know that
receiving early money gives candidates maximum flexibility when making
expenditures and leads to later fund-raising success (Biersack,
Herrnson, and Wilcox 1993; Krasno, Green, and Cowden 1994). Early
money also affects the redistribution of money to other party candi-
dates and, thus, of power in the legislative body (Baker 1989; Gimpel
1996; Gurwitt 1990; Heberlig 2001; Herrnson 1997; Jackson 1988). As
Heberlig (2001) writes, “Leadership PACs are formed to take advan-
tage of one’s current positions to raise extra contributions to achieve
goals of personal ambition and/or party maximization” (19). In addition
to studying leadership PACs, scholars have analyzed transfers from

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