Academic Study Shows Link Between Campaign Donations and State Contracts

February 4, 2003

A new study by a University of Michigan researcher identifies a strong connection between campaign donations by construction and road-building contractors and major state contracts awarded by former Governor Tommy Thompson’s administration.

Michigan professor Roland Zullo’s research shows there was an acceleration of large donations during state budget cycles and "exceptional levels" of donations just before and just after contracts were awarded.

Zullo also found that the value of contracts awarded during the 1990s to contractors who contributed to Thompson’s campaign averaged $20 million while the average value of contracts awarded to non-contributors was $870,000.

The campaign contributor data Zullo used was provided by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The University of Michigan study closely parallels the Democracy Campaign’s findings in its recent "Graft Tax" study. WDC found a clear pattern of preferential treatment of road builders and prison construction firms that made large campaign contributions to state lawmakers.