Working paper

Buying a Blind Eye: Campaign Donations, Regulatory Enforcement, and Deforestation in Colombia

Robin Harding, Mounu Prem, Nelson A. Ruiz, and David L. Vargas


While existing work has demonstrated that campaign donations can buy access to benets such as favorable legislation and preferential contracting, we highlight another use of campaign contributions: buying reductions in regulatory enforcement. Specically, we argue that in return for campaign contributions, Colombian mayors who rely on donor-funding (compared to those who do not) choose not to enforce sanctions against illegal deforestation activities. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that deforestation is signicantly higher in municipalities that elect donor-funded as opposed to self-funded politicians. Further analysis shows that only part of this eect can be explained by dierences in contracting practices by donor-funded mayors. Instead, evidence of heterogeneity in the eects according to the presence of alternative formal and informal enforcement institutions, and analysis of re clearance, support the interpretation that campaign contributions buy reductions in the enforcement of environmental regulations.


Campaign donations; Deforestation; Regulatory enforcement;

See also

Published in

IAST working paper, n. 22-136, March 2022