David G. Herro, a well-known money manager in Chicago, has given more than $2 million to political campaigns and causes over the last seven years. So perhaps it is not too surprising that a United States senator and other prominent politicians have dropped by his offices just to chat. “A lot of the time they just want to sit and talk,” said Mr. Herro, the son of an accountant and a nurse who raised six children in Milwaukee, and a partner at Harris Associates. “But the reason they do want to see you, eventually, is for financial support.” Just like his approach to picking investments, his strategy for giving is specific: He supports mostly Republican candidates who share his worldview that people deserve the same opportunities — including education — but that government should serve more as a referee, not an active player. He is more likely to give if a race looks to be tight. And some of his larger donations have been to a political action committee that defended Republicans who were supportive of same-sex marriage and other gay rights.
Individuals are moved to donate for different reasons. Some, like Mr. Herro, have the wherewithal to give large sums and are driven by broader ideological leanings. Others are stirred to support candidates who champion policies that would help their businesses, employees or families. Then there are the people who simply hope to preserve the status quo. But a recent study provides some confirmation of what many voters have long assumed: Campaign donations buy access to politicians. Precisely how much money it takes to gain access is up for debate — and it will vary across offices — but even politicians themselves have admitted that big donors get special treatment.
Much of the academic research examining political contributions’ impact on politicians’ behavior has not resulted in a clear line connecting contributions to policy or legislative changes; specific outcomes can be subtle or hard to observe. Political scientists also say any influence is hard to measure because donors tend to give to those who share their beliefs. But David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, two graduate students in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, used a field experiment to analyze donors’ influence directly. In the summer of 2013, they worked with a liberal activist group, Credo Action, that was already lobbying to gain support for a federal bill that would ban the use of a certain chemical.
Full Article: A Citizen’s Guide to Buying Political Access – NYTimes.com.