NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Factors Offset Advantage Of Personal Wealth In Campaigns

November 4, 1999

The assertion is often made that wealthy individuals who run for public office have an unfair advantage over candidates who lack personal fortunes. That's because the wealthy are free to spend as much of their own money as they choose in order to get elected.

But a new study by Jeffrey Milyo of Tufts University and Timothy Groseclose at Stanford University concludes that wealth is of little help in campaigns.

  • They point to a number of wealthy candidates, including Ross Perot, who ran for office and lost.
  • They add that candidate wealth "may inspire jealousy, resentment or disdain among voters."
  • Numerous studies show that the benefits of campaign spending are smaller than most people imagine -- because once a campaign's spending reaches a certain level, added spending brings little additional return.

In a statistical analysis of the House elections of 1992, the researchers found that wealthy officeholders don't raise or spend more than those who aren't wealthy.

They also found that officeholders with large campaign war chests face challengers just as tough as the challengers faced by officeholders without large war chests.

Source: Macroscope, "Rich-ocracy?" Investor's Business Daily, November 4, 1999.

 

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