This paper investigates whether and how firms receiving benefits through their connections to politicians use accounting discretion to mitigate the costs associated with negative publicity. I utilize a unique setting that captures the change in political costs arising from chairmanship appointments to influential U.S. Senate committees. Firms in the home state of a promoted officeholder often receive preferential treatment, drawing public scrutiny and incentivizing them to avoid reporting extreme earnings through income smoothing to reduce adverse political attention. Employing a difference-in-differences research design, I find evidence that home-state firms smooth their earnings throughout the officeholder’s tenure following a senator’s promotion to chairman or ranking minority member. Cross-sectional analyses demonstrate that these effects are stronger for firms anticipating higher political costs. Overall, this paper provides evidence of the political cost hypothesis, highlighting the role of political connections in shaping firms’ financial reporting strategies.

Data Availability: Data are available from the public sources cited in the text.

JEL Classifications: M40; M41; H57.

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