Do third-party monitoring strategies vary over time? Lessons from the campaign finance context.

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What strategies are employed by third-party monitors in the campaign finance context?

Project Abstract

Federal campaign finance laws are enforced through the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The FEC has limited ability to actively monitor candidates and instead frequently relies on complaints from interested parties, be it opposing campaigns, interest groups, political parties, or other interested observers. To date, little research has examined the strategy and choice of these third parties to bring forward complaints. In our research, we collected data on all third-party complaints to the FEC pertinent to the 2006 to 2012 Congressional elections. Our research illuminates who brings forward complaints, as well as the veracity and severity of these complaints. Our preliminary research findings show that complaints are more likely to occur in competitive campaigns and less likely to be alleged against incumbent candidates. However, the complaints alleged in each of these types campaigns are, all else equal, less likely to be veracious. Complaints against a campaign are more likely to be alleged if an opposing campaign already has an allegation against it, likely a strategic mechanisms to level the playing field. Surprisingly, these tactical responses are more likely to be veracious than an average complaint.

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