"Competition and Donor Accountability in the Political Marketplace: An Experimental Intervention to Fight 'Scam PACs'”
Zhao Li, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Assistant Professor starting 2020 at Princeton University
“Scam PACs” are political action committees (PACs) in the United States that use their budgets to enrich their creators, instead of advancing the political causes they purport to champion. In the 2018 election cycle alone they collectively raised at least $50 million.
Regulators and practitioners have warned that scam PACs will not only harm unsuspecting donors, but also poison the well of fundraising for legitimate PACs. However, there has been little research on whether donors can distinguish scam PACs from legitimate PACs, nor on interventions that could prevent donors from falling victim.
To these ends, I propose a research design to contact scam PAC donors with the following objectives:
- Measure gaps in perceived vs. actual spending patterns of scam PACs;
- Provide an experimental intervention to teach donors how to utilize public records to assess PACs' spending patterns;
- Document subsequent changes in contribution behavior and self-reported attitudes towards solicitation attempts.
PRESS research workshops are intended as a forum to workshop research designs-in- progress
with the goal of receiving constructive feedback before data have been collected. Please keep
in mind the following guidelines when designing your presentation:
Before the Workshop
At least ten days before your presentation, please email the PRESS student coordinators a title and abstract describing your project. Please include the names and institutional affiliations of any co-authors who you’d like to include on the event advertisements.
- Due to time limitations, you may find it helpful to circulate materials to attendees ahead of time, such as an elaboration of your theoretical approach or your draft survey instrument.
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At the Workshop
- Workshops consist of presentations by two researchers. In order to ensure that both researchers receive constructive feedback, each researcher will be held to a strict 45-minute time limit (including presentation and discussion time).
- After the first presenter’s time has elapsed, we will transition to the second presentation.
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After the Workshop
- Incorporate the feedback you received, consider applying for a PRESS grant, and good luck with your experiment!