Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anonymizing Campaign Influence

Megan McArdle had a really interesting idea over at The Atlantic about campaign donations. In addressing the transparency of campaign donations, McArdle blazes her own path:
I've long toyed with the notion that we should go the other way: allow unlimited donations, including from corporations. But force them to go through an institutions which strips off the names and pools the money, so it's impossible to see who donated, or even the size of the individual donations. Once a month, you get a check from the campaign finance bank, and that's it.

I have no idea whether this would pass constitutional muster. But it would certainly cripple lobbying via campaign contributions, while allowing people to give as much support as they wish to candidates who they think will further their interests. The overall result would probably be much less money in politics, with candidates much more dependent on small donors. And it's possible that this could advantage incumbents--who get free television time--even more.
I'm interested to know what others think about this idea. I'll have to think about it a bit more, but my initial reaction is that it wont work because candidates will find a way to signal that they need money and donors will find a way to signal that they've given money, so, in the end, the people that want to know (the candidates and their donors) will all know anyway.

The reason I started blogging is related to the problem of how to finance a campaign without allowing too many restrictions on donors and candidates. I worry that donors have too much influence over candidates, so I would like campaigning and campaign donations to be completely separated from service in elected office. Toward that end, I believe that we should implement a new kind of term limit. Specifically, legislators should not be allowed to serve consecutive terms.

The idea is that you are either amassing the funds and running a campaign or you're serving the public, but you can not do both simultaneously. Once elected legislators would have less reason to be beholden to their financiers since they could presumably find new ones in the two years between their current and future terms.

2 comments:

Brian said...

I've always suggested the idea that the incumbent must win an increasing portion of the vote for each election.

So a House Member would have to win 50% (+1), 52%, 54%, ... up to 68%.

A Senate Member would have to win 50%, 56%, 62%, 68%.

If they can keep the people happy at such increasing ratios, they can stay!!

angie said...

Or perhaps you could look at the Texas system where there legislature only meets every odd numbered year. That way, they spend their off time living with and getting to understand the concerns of their constituents. Their system clearly separates the politician's time between serving and campaigning.