New Proof That Money Can Buy Access to Congress

A recent study finds that campaign donations can get you face time with members of Congress.

New Proof That Money Can Buy Access to Congress Photo (cc) by Glyn Lowe Photoworks, 3 Million Views, Thanks

Looking to meet with your congressman? Unless you’re a campaign donor, you may be out of luck.

That’s the finding of a recent study by two graduate student researchers from Yale and University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with CREDO Action, a grass-roots progressive group.

The field study was one of the first of its kind. The Huffington Post said:

CREDO sent each of the 191 congressional offices a meeting request. The offices were randomly assigned to receive either a request describing the prospective attendees as “constituents” or one describing them as “donors.” No other details about the individual were provided.

What were the results? Not surprisingly, the “donors” were more likely to get meetings (12.5 percent) with members of Congress or other high-ranking officials than regular “constituents” (2.4 percent).

This seems to provide evidence of what many people already believe to be true of American politics – money equals access.

While the results aren’t surprising, they are alarming. In an email to The Washington Post, David Broockman and Josh Kalla, the study’s authors, said:

Most Americans can’t afford to contribute to campaigns in meaningful amounts, while those who can have very different priorities than the broader public. Concern that campaign donations facilitate the wealthy’s well-documented greater influence with legislators has long inspired reformers to make changes to the system of campaign finance. Our results support their concerns. If legislators are surrounding themselves with individuals who can afford to donate, they’re going to receive a distorted portrait of the public’s priorities and hear a distorted set of arguments about what is best for the country.

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