Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


The 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case Citizens United v. FEC brought about major changes in U.S. Campaign finance law, most infamously the creation and proliferating of Super PACs, a new vehicle for outside spending. In this thesis, I investigate the impacts of the Citizens United decision on electoral outcomes in U.S. House of Representatives races. I analyzed campaign finance data from the 2006, 2014, 2016, and 2018 election cycles for three categories of House races: open seats, competitive seats, and seats that fall within a specific spending ratio between the top two vote getters. I conducted a number of comparisons of the winning percentages of candidates with more PAC support (in individual races) and more outside support (in individual races), between election cycles and seat categories. I also compared incumbent-party winning percentages to PAC and outside-spending winning percentages, to look for differences between the impact on incumbents and challengers. I found that outside spending is more aligned with winning candidates in the competitive seats categories than PAC spending. However, in the other categories there is no substantial difference between PAC support and outside support. I also found that the Citizens United decision appears to be helping challengers try to unseat incumbents by making it easier to inject large sums of outside money into races. When two candidates are very evenly matched, having more outside spending can help a challenger unseat an incumbent, but if the incumbent has numerous factors favoring them, having more outside support will not substantially help the challenger.