Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Loophole in Contribution Law?

Ian Ayres

The New York Times reports today:

Mrs. Clinton has raised nearly $50 million and spent about $35 million; both the
infrastructure she has built and whatever money is left at the end can be
transferred into a presidential race if she decides to run.

This raises an interesting possibility. Imagine that a presidential candidate wants to allow people to contribute more to her campaign than is currently allowed under Federal campaign law. She could sign up to run in the off year election for the House and the Senate (and maybe have her relatives run for House and Senate in the same state). Supporters of the presidential campaign make maximum contributions to the House and Senate campaigns. To be extreme, imagine that these are sham candidacies and that she and her relatives spend almost none of the money contributed so as to maximize the amount that can be transfered post defeat to the real presidential campaign. The supporters who maxed out in making contributions to the sham campaigns can also max out in giving to the presidential campaign. And voila you have neat/scary way to end run the contribution limits.

Should we require candidates to give back excess funds to their donors? Or should we at least require some kind of attribution rule so that contributors can't effectively double dip? As it stands 30 cents of every dollar give to the Clinton Senate race is likely to support the Clinton presidential race.


Why not say that all monies left over from (House + Senate) campaigns for 2006 will be transferred to a clean election pool and distributed equally amongst all national candidates (House, Senate, President) that meet a certain watermark, either in petition signatures or money raised independently (like number of individual contributors)?

Whoa there, that was trippy. Yeah, nothing'll change.

Yes, indeed, why not take donations from members of Moveon, and pass them on to David Duke? Why not take donations from members of the Minute Men, and pass them on to a candidate endorsed by Mecha? It's not like there'd be something offensive about forcing people to finance candidates they loath...

Money doesn't buy politics, that gets the power relationship backwards: Politics buys money. Campaign donations are quite often extortion, not bribery.

You want people to spend less on politicians? Make them worth less: Reduce the power of government. It would attack the problem from both ends, reducing the power of extortionists to extort, and reducing the desire of people bribe politicans who could no longer deliver anything worth the bribe.

Thinking you can take the money out of politics, while leaving the power in? It's a fantasy.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
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