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Campaign Finance: Timing and Its Torments
Unformatted Document Text:  typical challenger has little name recognition or money relative to an incumbent, so early money can help them organize their campaign infrastructure, increase name recognition, and raise additional money (Biersack, Herrnson and Wilcox 1993; Jacobson 2004; Krasno, Green, and Cowden 1994). As we use the term here, “early” refers to money given before most actors get involved, when the campaign is still creating an infrastructure and trying to get attention from other donors. For money to be “early” it must arrive well before the usual upsurge in financial and campaign activity during the 2-3 months approaching Election Day. Some research has shown that early spending has a greater impact than later spending on the final election outcome (Box-Steffensmeier and Lin 1997; Krasno, Green and Cowden 1994). 2 Our method is to observe the pattern of contributions to challengers through the 2004 election cycle. To identify factors that determine the dynamics of support throughout the election cycle, we construct a model of contributions that takes into account relatively stable indicators of potentially winnable seats (such as district voting history) and those that fluctuate in the course of a campaign cycle (such as polls and fundraising). We are interested in whether donors make decisions based on time-invariant “fundamentals” that might encourage early involvement, or on short-term fluctuations that might encourage a wait-and-see approach. As we explain below, we expect some groups, like political parties and ideological PACs, to engage in the process early, based on a rational assessment of time-invariant factors. In this way, they have the potential to expand the competitive electoral terrain to put additional like-minded candidates in office. In 2 The faith in early spending has led one interest group that supports pro-choice women candidates to call itself “EMILY’s List:” The name stands for “Early Money is Like Yeast” (because it makes the dough rise).

Authors: McGhee, Eric. and La Raja, Raymond.
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typical challenger has little name recognition or money relative to an incumbent, so early
money can help them organize their campaign infrastructure, increase name recognition,
and raise additional money (Biersack, Herrnson and Wilcox 1993;
Jacobson 2004;
Krasno, Green, and Cowden 1994). As we use the term here, “early” refers to money
given before most actors get involved, when the campaign is still creating an
infrastructure and trying to get attention from other donors. For money to be “early” it
must arrive well before the usual upsurge in financial and campaign activity during the
2-3 months approaching Election Day. Some research has shown that early spending has
a greater impact than later spending on the final election outcome (Box-Steffensmeier
and Lin 1997; Krasno, Green and Cowden 1994).
Our method is to observe the pattern of contributions to challengers through the 2004
election cycle. To identify factors that determine the dynamics of support throughout the
election cycle, we construct a model of contributions that takes into account relatively
stable indicators of potentially winnable seats (such as district voting history) and those
that fluctuate in the course of a campaign cycle (such as polls and fundraising). We are
interested in whether donors make decisions based on time-invariant “fundamentals” that
might encourage early involvement, or on short-term fluctuations that might encourage a
wait-and-see approach. As we explain below, we expect some groups, like political
parties and ideological PACs, to engage in the process early, based on a rational
assessment of time-invariant factors. In this way, they have the potential to expand the
competitive electoral terrain to put additional like-minded candidates in office. In
2
The faith in early spending has led one interest group that supports pro-choice women candidates to call
itself “EMILY’s List:” The name stands for “Early Money is Like Yeast” (because it makes the dough
rise).


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