Document Type

Article

Comments

The Donation Booth: Mandating Donor Anonymity to Disrupt the Market for Political Influence (with Jeremy Bulow), 50 Stanford Law Review 837 (1998)

Abstract

In this article, Professors Ayres and Bulow argue that, instead of mandating disclosure of all campaign contributions, we should instead consider mandating that all contributions be anonymous. Just as the secret ballot makes it more difficult for candidates to buy votes, mandating anonymous donations can make it more difficult for candidates to sell access or influence. Forcing donors to funnel campaign contributions through blind trusts can discourage quid pro quo corruption because candidates never learn whether particular donors paid the price. To implement their proposal, the authors articulate a mimicry principle that would allow faux donors to send the same signals as real donors. Talk is cheap; just as anyone can say they voted for Clinton, anyone—including faux donors—could claim they donated money. Mandating donor anonymity is also more clearly constitutional than several alternative reforms. In a world in which the free speech burdens of the voting booth and mandated disclosure are constitutional (because of their impact on corruption), a properly structured "donation booth" is a fortiori constitutional. Mandated anonymity, however, is not a panacea This reform would predictably shift money toward less accountable "issue advocacy" expenditures and may be so effective in disrupting the market for influence that it cripples candidates' ability to raise funds. Even considering these unintended effects, the article suggests that forms of mandated anonymity might usefully compliment other campaign finance restrictions.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1998

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