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Money in politics is the subject of great debate at every level of government, yet it has principally been studied at the federal level in the US. Where scholars have analyzed local campaign donations, their work has largely focused on understanding who donates and to what kind of candidates. The actual effects of political donations on local policy outcomes remain essentially unstudied. In this paper, we describe and leverage a novel data set of over 3 million municipal election campaign contributions across five U.S. states and covering thousands of U.S. cities. Using generalized difference-in-differences panel research designs, we examine the causal impact of real estate industry contributions to local political candidates on permitted housing units and buildings. Our results show that campaign contributions from organized interests appear to play an important role in dictating policy outcomes at the local level. Specifically, more contributions from real estate development groups lead to increases in multi-family housing development. These results contribute to a broader understanding of the financial influence of interest groups in municipal policy as well as local politics more broadly


Gaudette, Jennifer, and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner. "Local Money: Evaluating the Effects of Municipal Campaign Contributions on Housing Policy Outcomes." April 23, 2024.