Abby Wood and Christian Grose have posted this draft on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Do audits by executive agencies impact the behavior of those audited? Does revealing negative information about candidates affect electoral results and behavior? Institutions that encourage transparency, such as campaign finance disclosure, influence mass and elite behavior. We theorize that greater transparency provides information to voters during legislative campaigns about the character of candidates, and that information affects voter and legislator behavior. The U.S. Federal Election Commission conducted random audits of 10 percent of U.S. House members in the 1970s. This FEC program is the only randomized experiment an agency has conducted on federal legislators and their electorates. We find that legislators with audits yielding campaign finance violations did poorly in the general election relative to the control group. Audited incumbents seeking reelection whose audits revealed violations took more trips home to their districts. Increased transparency and candidate audits are effective policy tools that can increase elected officials’ efforts.