Do campaign contributions influence politicians? In this article, we study the impact of corporate donations on ideology and political rhetoric among candidates running for parliamentary seats. We construct a novel dataset that combines candidate manifestos with data on the amount and origin of the donations received by all the candidates to the French Parliament. We exploit an exogenous historical shock on corporate contributions to estimate their causal impact. Combining a difference-in-differences approach with computational text analysis, we show that receiving more donations from small and local corporate donors encourages candidates to advertise their local presence over national politics in their campaign communication. We also find evidence that donations lead candidates from extreme parties to moderate their rhetoric -- including shifts in the policy topics they advertise. Our results are consistent with an "electoral effect": receiving expressive contributions from corporate donors changes candidates' perception of the issues that matter most to their constituents. They adjust the content of their campaign messages accordingly, which alters the information made available to voters before casting their vote.
Apr 5, 2021, 4:15 pm – 5:30 pm