In the paper, Campaign Contributions and Governmental Financial Management: Evidence from State Bond Pricing, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I study campaign-finance agency costs related to pricing in the $2.9 trillion state and local government bond market. By selecting a contributing underwriter directly, the government could incur significant costs with respect to government bond underpricing. There is no comparable impact when an underwriter is chosen through an auction. Through the use of a control function approach, I show that the decision to select a contributing underwriter is endogenous to first-day returns. When underpricing is expected, the government’s propensity to choose a contributing underwriter decreases as expected underpricing increases. This evidence supports the idea that there are significant agency costs associated with campaign contributions and the evidence remains robust after a battery of checks.
This paper’s results lend support to the political agency cost model. Consistent with the common assertion that the election is the primary disciplining mechanism for political executives in a political agency cost model (Besley, 2006), the likelihood that a contributing underwriter is chosen is decreasing in the closeness to the next election. Consistent with the idea that laws can discipline politicians directly and through taxpayer monitoring, the likelihood that the government does not choose an auction to select an underwriter is decreasing in the quality of conflict-of-interest laws and freedom-of-information laws; the likelihood that the government chooses a contributing underwriter is decreasing in the quality of freedom-of-information laws.read more