September 28, 2015

Does Public Financing Affect Judicial Behavior?

Evidence From the North Carolina Supreme Court

Many observers are concerned that campaign contributions could affect the decisions of elected judges. However, the empirical correlation between contributions and judicial decisions is consistent with two different explanations of judicial behavior: (a) money influences judges or (b) contributors choose to support candidates with a similar philosophical or legal perspective. In this article, we take advantage of North Carolina’s shift to a voluntary public finance system for state Supreme Court candidates to obtain more credible estimates of the contributions–behavior relationship. Applying a difference-in-differences research design, we provide evidence that justices who opted into public financing became relatively less favorable toward attorney donors. We also find partial support for our hypothesis that participating justices became more moderate in their voting patterns. Taken together, these findings suggest that public financing reduced responsiveness to donors among participating justices.

2016. American Politics Research 44 (4) 587-617. With Morgan Hazelton and Brendan Nyhan.  
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