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Urban Regimes and Election Finance: The Impact of Campaign Contributions on Electoral Outcomes

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The tenets of urban regime and growth machine theories suppose that corporate elites have an outsized influence over the municipal decision-making process. Clarence Stone and Harvey Molotch state that relationships between the business community and policy makers exist to advance economic development, creating an informal arrangement that has a significant impact on the evolution of cities. However, neither Stone nor Molotch explain how the power and influence of the business elite is exercised on the ground. This thesis looks at the role campaign contributions play in electoral outcomes and examines the following question: what impact does money have on electoral success in municipal politics and who benefits from the current campaign finance paradigm? Using quantitative analysis of data culled from financial disclosure documents from the 2014 civic elections in Metro Vancouver, this thesis is able determine that campaign contributions and spending haves a significant impact on electoral success. Funds have been categorized into donor groupings, making it possible to determine which types of contributors, be they individuals, labour groups, developers or corporate interests, have the best outcomes for the candidates they support. Key findings: Regression analysis shows that both campaign contributions and campaign spending haves a significant impact on vote totals, particularly in the early stages. For example, the first $1,000 in spending or donations correlates corresponds with the highest increase in the number of ballots cast for a given candidate, while the impact money has on vote totals decreases as contributions and donations increase. The thesis also examines the role incumbency plays in electoral success and demonstrates how corporate regimes use their financial resources to influence policy makers and electoral outcomes. 
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