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How Do Campaign Spending Limits Affect Electoral Competition?

How Do Campaign Spending Limits Affect Electoral Competition?

Alexander Fouirnaies
May 1, 2017 -
11:30am to 1:00pm
Encina Hall West, Room 400 (GSL)
Event Speaker: 
Alexander Fouirnaies, Assistant Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago

In half of the democratic countries in the world, candidates face legal constraints on how much money they can spend on their electoral campaigns, yet we know little about the consequences of these restrictions. I study how spending limits affect electoral competition in the context of U.K. House of Commons elections (1885-2010). On the basis of archival material, I collect a new dataset on practically all candidates who ran for a parliamentary seat over the past 130 years, recording how much money each candidate spent, the legal maximum they faced, and exactly how they allocated their resources across seven different spending categories. Exploiting within-constituency variation in spending caps induced by quasi-exogenous reforms, I identify causal effects on electoral competition. The results indicate that high spending limits reduce electoral competition: when limits are higher, average winning margins are higher, incumbents’ spending advantages are more pronounced, and incumbents attract larger vote shares.


Alexander Fouirnaies works on the political economy of elections. Most of his research focuses on how money and the media shape elections and affect representation and accountability. Methodologically, he has an interest in causal inference and applied econometrics. 

Most of his projects use natural experiments to uncover causal relations between political and economic variables.