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Informational Lobbying and Competition for Access

Cotton, Christopher (2007): Informational Lobbying and Competition for Access.

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Abstract

There is substantial evidence that political contributions buy access to politicians. This paper incorporates access into a model of informational lobbying, then uses the access framework to analyze the impact of contribution limits on policy outcomes and representative citizen welfare. In the competition for access model, interest groups provide contributions to a politician and those that provide the highest contributions win access. A group with access can present verifiable evidence in favor of its preferred policy. Because equilibrium contributions are chosen endogenously, the politician learns about the evidence quality of all interest groups, even when he grants access to only some of the groups. A contribution limit reduces the amount of information available to the politician and tends to result in worse policy. Under a variety of assumptions, a limit has an unambiguously negative impact on representative citizen welfare. However, when the politician can choose whether to sell access or sell policy favors, a contribution limit can improve citizen welfare by making it more likely that the politician sells access.

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