While it is conventional wisdom that money influences politics, researchers released a report Tuesday aiming to answer the longstanding question of exactly how much political spending it takes to sway a Congressional vote.
Fifty Shades of Green (pdf), published by the Roosevelt Institute, analyzes “the role political finance has played in securing the privileged positions of both high finance and big telecom” by examining how lawmakers evolved in supporting efforts to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and net neutrality.
Specifically, the authors looked at Democratic representatives who originally voted in favor of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and then later voted to dismantle key provisions of it.
“Because these are the same representatives, belonging to the same political party, in substantially the same districts, many factors normally advanced to explain vote shifts are ruled out from the start,” explained the research team, which was led by Thomas Ferguson, professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Ferguson authored the book Golden Rule, on the role big money plays in political outcomes.
After analyzing five votes cast between 2013 and 2015 and comparing that to campaign contributions—which were tallied from any source including “contributions to candidate campaign committees, party committees, 527s or ‘independent expenditures,’ SuperPACs, etc.”—the authors found “the link between campaign contributions from the financial sector and switching to a pro-bank vote to be direct and substantial.”
“The results indicate that for every $100,000 that Democratic representatives received from finance, the odds they would break with their party’s majority support for the Dodd-Frank legislation increased by 13.9 percent,” the report states. “Democratic representatives who voted in favor of finance often received $200,000 – $300,000 from that sector, which raised the odds of switching by 25–40 percent.”
The authors further noted that Democrats who were nearing the end of their House term as well as members of the House Financial Services Committee “were far more likely to support the banks on repealing elements of Dodd-Frank.”
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