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Postdoctoral research associate in the department of politics and Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. Starting in 2020, Zhao Li will become assistant professor of politics and public affairs.
Competition and Donor Accountability in the Political Marketplace: An Experimental Intervention to Fight 'Scam PACs'
Abstract: “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.