Financing Local Elections: The Impact of Institutions on Electoral Outcomes and Democratic Representation

Brian E. Adamsa1

a1 San Diego State University

The financing of political campaigns has been extensively studied on both the national and state levels. With the advent of campaign contribution and expenditure databases, scholars have a wealth of data to use in examining the importance of money for electoral success, the influence of campaign contributions on legislative roll call voting, and the effects of campaign finance reforms. Much less research has been conducted on the local level, largely because of a lack of available data. Research on local campaign finance is necessary, however, because local governments are not just smaller versions of their state and federal counterparts, but rather have unique political and cultural institutions that create idiosyncratic electoral dynamics. Furthermore, variation across local jurisdictions generates opportunities to study campaign finance in different contexts, allowing for a deeper understanding of how contextual variables influence the role of money. In this article, I outline an agenda for local campaign finance research that addresses central questions in the campaign finance and urban politics literatures.

(Online publication January 14 2011)

Brian E. Adams is an associate professor of political science at San Diego State University whose research focuses on democratic practices in local politics. His publications include two books—Citizen Lobbyists: Local Efforts to Influence Public Policy (2007) and Campaign Finance in Local Elections: Buying the Grassroots (2009)—as well as articles in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Review, and Public Administration Review. He can be reached at