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The Business of American Democracy: Citizens United, Independent Spending, and Elections

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In Citizens United v. FEC, the US Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations and labor unions are unconstitutional. We analyze the effects of Citizens United on state election outcomes. We find that Citizens United is associated with an increase in Republicans’ election probabilities in state house races of approximately 4 percentage points overall and 10 or more percentage points in several states. We link these estimates to on-the-ground evidence of significant spending by corporations through channels enabled by Citizens United. We also explore the effects of Citizens United on reelection rates, candidates’ entry, and direct contributions and discuss implications for national elections and economic policy.

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