We exploit the precise timing of natural disasters to provide empirical evidence on the connection between electoral accountability and politicians’ support for special interests. We show that, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the evening news substantially reduce their coverage of politics. At the very same time, members of Congress become more likely to adopt the positions of special-interest donors as they vote on bills. Our findings are consistent with standard theories of political agency, according to which politicians are more inclined to serve special interests when, for exogenous reasons, they are less intensely monitored.
natural disasters moral hazard toll-call voting special interests Congress