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Campaign Finance: Timing and Its Torments
Unformatted Document Text:  working with officeholders to ensure the continued flow of material benefits. These donors tend to be business PACs and they should give at the very end of the cycle to challengers, if they give at all. Labor union PACs and leadership PACs are unusual cases. Conceivably, both have reasons to behave ideologically and pragmatically. Given that their interests are so closely aligned with one party, we expect labor unions to behave more like ideological PACs. But access is still of critical importance, so there might be reasons to expect some pragmatic behavior as well. Similarly, leadership PACs—that is, money that comes from other members of Congress—should be given early, since members of Congress want to fill seats with compatible colleagues. At the same time, members primarily want to fill seats with potential supporters, regardless of ideology, so they want to be sure to support someone who is going to win. That should encourage them to give late in the cycle, when the potential winners are clearer. To our knowledge there has been no systematic analysis of the timing of donations across different groups. Our approach is to examine such donations to observe which groups, in fact, take the lead in helping challengers and when they choose to do so. To what extent to certain types of donors give early, and what signs of opportunity are most likely to get them involved? To explore this question we use data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which classifies political action committees according to their type: business, labor, ideological, and leadership. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) already classifies donors as parties, PACs, or individuals, but the FEC’s categorization of PACs is determined by IRS reporting requirements and bears little relationship to the categories of interest to researchers. The CRP categories, then, offer

Authors: McGhee, Eric. and La Raja, Raymond.
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working with officeholders to ensure the continued flow of material benefits. These
donors tend to be business PACs and they should give at the very end of the cycle to
challengers, if they give at all.
Labor union PACs and leadership PACs are unusual cases. Conceivably, both have
reasons to behave ideologically and pragmatically. Given that their interests are so
closely aligned with one party, we expect labor unions to behave more like ideological
PACs. But access is still of critical importance, so there might be reasons to expect some
pragmatic behavior as well. Similarly, leadership PACs—that is, money that comes from
other members of Congress—should be given early, since members of Congress want to
fill seats with compatible colleagues. At the same time, members primarily want to fill
seats with potential supporters, regardless of ideology, so they want to be sure to support
someone who is going to win. That should encourage them to give late in the cycle,
when the potential winners are clearer.
To our knowledge there has been no systematic analysis of the timing of donations
across different groups. Our approach is to examine such donations to observe which
groups, in fact, take the lead in helping challengers and when they choose to do so. To
what extent to certain types of donors give early, and what signs of opportunity are most
likely to get them involved? To explore this question we use data from the Center for
Responsive Politics (CRP), which classifies political action committees according to their
type: business, labor, ideological, and leadership. The Federal Election Commission
(FEC) already classifies donors as parties, PACs, or individuals, but the FEC’s
categorization of PACs is determined by IRS reporting requirements and bears little
relationship to the categories of interest to researchers. The CRP categories, then, offer


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