Research Workshops


Open House
September 19, 4:30-6
Corwin 127

"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.
October 17, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers: David Ribar and Chinbo Chong
November 21, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers TBD
December 12, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers TBD
February 6, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers TBD
March 5, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers TBD
March 26, 12-1:20
Wallace 300
Consponsored with Center for Study of Democratic Politics
Speaker: Professor Cindy D. Kam (Vanderbilt University)
April 2, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers TBD

Presenter Guidelines

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.
  • If you have a Mac computer, please bring your own adapter or let the PRESS student coordinators know several days in advance, if you need to borrow one.
  • Tell your colleagues, friends, advisors, professors, or anyone else whose feedback you’d like to receive that you are presenting. Though we will advertise your event, personal requests are often more effective!

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.
  • The first presenter will be notified after half her allotted time has passed and will be alerted when five minutes remain, at which point she should conclude her presentation.
  • The content of the presentation is largely at the behest of the presenter. Often, it is helpful to provide theoretical background/motivation for the project in addition to details of the experimental design. Feel free to direct the conversation to areas that you believe require the most feedback. Remember – 45 minutes goes by quickly!

After the Workshop

  • Incorporate the feedback you received, consider applying for a PRESS grant, and good luck with your experiment!