Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences


Political Science

First Advisor

Donald Gross


There is a great deal of work on campaign finance at the national level, however, state level research is sparse. My dissertation fills this void in the literature by examining the motivations of contributors to state legislators. The literature discusses two major motivations of contributors universalistic contributors, who hope to influence election outcomes, and particularistic contributors who hope to influence legislative votes. The primary hypothesis is that proximity to the general election is the primary factor in explaining contribution patterns in state legislatures; however, proximity to a legislative vote of interest to the contributor will also be significant in explaining contribution patterns. Additionally, the dissertation examines the impact of session limits on contribution patterns. I use campaign contribution data collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and select twenty-five bills in nine states to test the primary hypothesis. I use a contributor fixed effects model to test for increased or decreased levels of contributions for each contributor, given the proximity to the election and legislative votes important to the contributor. The results indicate that contributions increase across all states in the two months prior to the general and primary elections, and that proximity to the election is the most important factor in explaining campaign contributions in state legislatures. In 32% of all cases in the study, there was direct evidence of interest groups attempting to influence the outcome of legislative votes. Additionally, an increase in contributions close to a major legislative vote occurred in 77% of the cases without session limits, indicating that interest groups are highly active in attempting to influence policy outcomes. An additional examination of contribution patterns indicates that PACs shift their contributions to the beginning of the legislative session when faced with session limits. My research contributes to our understanding of the motives of campaign contributors and their actions when faced with legal restrictions on their contributions. This research, therefore, allows campaign finance reformers to make better reform decisions.