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Money in Politics: Self-Enrichment, Campaign Spending, and Golden Parachutes, Simon Weschle

Reviewed by Seo-Young Silvia Kim
 

Why do some politicians use money in different ways? How do different types of money in politics relate to each other? In this book, Simon Weschle tackles these questions by building a holistic and comprehensive understanding of money in politics, crisscrossing formal theory with empirical evidence across multiple country-level contexts.

Weschle argues that our understanding of money in politics is siloed in narrow “partial equilibrium” approaches that focus on estimating the causal effect of one treatment or another on outcomes of interest. The author brings to our attention three types of money in politics: personal self-enrichment while in office, campaign spending while running for office, and lucrative “golden parachute” jobs in the private sector after leaving office. Only by understanding these different types of money as a common system—interconnected and partially fungible—can we understand that suppressing one will inevitably increase other types of money (second-order effects) as well as affect democracy (third-order effects). This is, indeed, what Weschle calls the “general equilibrium” approach, bridging many pieces of literature and building an understanding of the entire ecosystem of money in politics.

Weschle’s argument is the following: for elected officials, reelection is not the

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