Money Equals Access in Washington

Updated March 18, 2014

The commonly held assumption that money equals access to political candidates now has some evidence to support it. A new study done by Joshua Kalla, a political science graduate student at Yale, and David Broockman, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, shows that access to candidates and their senior staff greatly increases when campaign donors come calling. To conduct the experiment for their working paper entitled, “Congressional Officials Grant Access Due To Campaign Contributions: A Randomized Field Experiment,” the authors followed an actual political group and their lobbying efforts during the August recess last year as they sought meetings with members of Congress and their staff. The experiment included two sets of email requests, one from “active campaign donors” (who were members of a liberal advocacy organization called CREDO Action), and the other simply from “local constituents.”

The authors found that members of Congress or their chiefs of staff agreed to meet only 2.4% of the time with the local constituents, but 12.5% of the time with those identified as active campaign donors. The donor groups also had much greater access to a senior staffer than the constituent groups did.

As undergraduates of Yale, both authors studied under former director of ISPS, Don Green, an expert in the use of field experimentation. As a graduate student at Yale, Josh Kalla, currently studies under Professor Alan Gerber at ISPS, who collaborates and co-authors frequently with Don Green on experimental methods and American politics.

The Kalla-Broockman paper has garnered media attention in the Washington Post and the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, the Huffington Post, and also a Q&A with the authors in Monkey Cage

Additional media coverage: Bill Moyers & Co., Time, The American Conservative, Fierce Government.and Demos’ Policy Shop.