Political Action Committees and the Tragedy of the Commons:The Case of Nonconnected PACs
AbstractWhy did the receipts of political action committees (PACs) rise to a peak in the 1980s and then fall? Why were large numbers of PACs terminated in the middle of the 1980s? Focusing on nonconnected PACs, this dynamic path is explained as a result of a "tragedy of the commons" in which PACs faced a situation of rivalry in raising funds and an absence of mechanisms to restrict entry into their pool of resources. A model is specified and the optimal and tragedy levels of PAC receipts are deduced. These predictions are compared to the actual levels of PAC activity, and it is shown that the PACs did indeed expand to the point where they created for themselves a tragedy of the commons, suboptimal returns over the whole time period, and a contraction in activity.