New York’s Public Advocate agrees: Donors do not get favors from spending on elections

For years, advocates of campaign finance regulation have argued that such regulation is necessary to prevent campaign spenders from buying favorable public policy to help their bottom lines. Constantly we are told that donors are “investing” to “get returns” other than good public policy through their contributions and expenditures. Now comes New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, to declare, albeit apparently by accident, that that is not true. 

In a report released last week on the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, de Blasio argues that “political spending has a negative effect on the bottom line of businesses.  Studies by academics at the University of Minnesota and Harvard Law Schools show a strong relationship between outsize political spending and negative excess returns. Returns suffer when managers forsake investments in the core business of the corporation in favor of investing management time and energy in working the political system.” Bill de Blasio, Citizens United and the 2010 Midterm Elections (2010). 

Of course, from this de Blasio predictably concludes that further regulation to protect the system from “corruption” is absolutely necessary. There are many other conclusions, conclusory statements, and analytical inconsistencies in de Blasio’s report with which we disagree, but we’re glad to see an admission, however inadvertant or backhanded, that in fact campaign contributions don’t generally buy legislative results.