The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, February 05, 2007

Campaign Finance Reform: Cheap and Easy

Two professors of law proposed a system to take the corporate influence out of politics a few years ago, and it didn't get much attention (this is certainly the first I've heard of it). But it sounds great, is easy to "frame," and could be a cheaper solution than simple public financing of elections. The only glaring problem is the same with all possible solutions-- Congress probably won't like it. But that's true of any proposal that actually has teeth. Recommended reading.

Imagine that you are a politically connected Hollywood producer, and Hillary Clinton calls you up and asks you for $50,000. What do you do? In truth, you'd rather give to Barack Obama whom you consider more electable, but you don't want Clinton to know that. After all, what if she wins? Then you'll never see the inside of the Lincoln Bedroom. So you tell Clinton that you're definitely on her side. Fortunately, under the Ackerman-Ayres plan, you'll make your check out to the Federal Election Commission, not Clinton. The FEC will wait five days before adding your money to Clinton's account. In those five days, you could contact the FEC and redirect the money to Obama if you chose. And regardless of which candidate ultimately gets the money, its origin will be masked. The FEC will distribute the cash to the candidate's account anonymously, in pieces, over several days, using a secret algorithm to vary the pattern by which it deposits the money. So even though you promised the New York senator your support, she'll have no way of knowing whether you really went through with it. You could send your money to Obama and Clinton would have no way of knowing whose side you were actually on.

Requiring contributions to be anonymous would probably do quite a bit to curb corporate influence in that regard, but the piece has some other attractive reasons to back this approach.