Public Perception and the “Appearance of Corruption” in Campaign Finance

The Center for Competitive Politics in cooperation with University of Missouri Professor Jeff Milyo included several questions in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a national representative survey of 55,400 individuals.  The CCES data includes a set of common content questions given to all participants and separate team content questions developed by the University of Missouri and administered to a nationally representative subset of 1,000 persons.  A battery of eight campaign-finance-related questions was included in the Missouri team content; these are listed in full in the appendix.

We examine this data to learn what the average American thought about taxpayer-funded elections, contribution limits, the appearance of corruption, and disclosure. Since not just corruption, but the “appearance of corruption,” i.e. the public’s perception of the severity of corrupt practices in government bodies, has been given weight by the Supreme Court, we felt it was crucial to look at reliable data of a cross section of Americans and try to gain insight into their views, as well as to see how different wordings can skew the results in surveys on these topics.



Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns

Activist Investing in Post-Citizens United America

In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the scope of political speech protected under the First Amendment has substantially expanded. Whereas corporations and unions were previously prohibited from directly advocating for and against political candidates by spending funds from their general treasury, the Supreme Court has now […]

Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Disclosure, Issue Advocacy, Research

Corporate Governance and Campaign Finance: Supplemental Readings

Corporations, like unions and other organizations, have a constitutional right to discuss politics. The Supreme Court has explicitly welcomed corporate speech on political topics, including the qualifications of officeholders and candidates. Yet many people would prefer to see corporate political speech excluded from the public debate.

Having lost the constitutional battle, reformers who oppose corporate speech have tried to pass legislation or enact regulations that would make it more difficult for corporations to participate in our political discussions. Those efforts have largely failed.


Filed Under: Corporate Governance, Corporate Governance Research, Disclosure, Disclosure, External Relations Sub-Pages, Research, First Amendment, First Amendment

Campaign Disclosure, Privacy and Transparency

In this William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal article, authors Deborah G. Johnson, Priscilla M. Regan, and Kent Wayland explore the trade-off between privacy and transparency in the context of campaign finance disclosure requirements. As the authors’ explain, the policy discussions about balancing or reconciling the importance of public disclosure with the protection of […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, First Amendment, Research, Deborah G. Johnson, Kent Wayland, Priscilla M. Regan, Privacy, Disclosure, First Amendment, Disclosure, First Amendment

Full Disclosure: How Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Fail to Inform Voters and Stifle Public Debate

Disclosure is intended to be a low-cost means of combating corruption by providing citizens with information about the funding sources and expenditures of groups that advocate for or against issues on the ballot. In practice, however, disclosure does little to inform voters while imposing onerous burdens on those wishing to participate in the democratic debate. […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure State, External Relations Sub-Pages, Research, campaign finance reform, David Primo, Disclosure, Florida, institute for justice, Disclosure, Disclosure, Florida

The Failure of Mandated Disclosure

In this article, Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl E. Schneider examine a variety of disclosure mandates to assess the overall utility of disclosure. As disclosure requirements can be found in a variety of areas, from campaign finance, insurance, and telecommunications to sales of goods and services, leases, and contracts, the authors were able to scrutinize the utility of this mandate from a multitude of views. Throughout this article, Ben-Shahar and Schneider document the failure of mandated disclosure to both inform people and improve their decisions. Because the incentives behind disclosure encourage excess, the authors note that disclosure is often extensive and overly broad, perversely misinforming those it intends to help. In this vein, the authors believe that mandated disclosure fails to achieve its goals and recommends that disclosure requirements be kept short, in order to better aid those seeking information. To this point, the authors’ comprehensive study is instructive in the campaign finance arena and calls into question the mantra many repeat that more disclosure is inherently better.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions

Shade from the Glare: The Case for Semi-Disclosure

In this essay, Bruce Cain takes an interesting look at what many seem to believe is “the most widely embraced element of election regulation”:  disclosure. Recognizing that disclosure is gaining traction in the evolution of election law and enforcement, Cain proposes that legislatures explore an option known as “semi-disclosure.” Essentially, a system of semi-disclosure would assign donor ID numbers to contributors and require full reporting, while making only some campaign donor information publicly available. Then, in the event of a corruption allegation, full disclosure information could be released to the public. In Cain’s view, this system has the opportunity to do the greatest good at reducing the likeliness of quid pro quo corruption while avoiding sacrificing protected political speech. As disclosure requirements continue to be discussed and debated across the United States, the author’s semi-disclosure proposal warrants consideration in policy circles.

For a response to the author’s semi-disclosure idea, please read the essay, “The Costs of Mandating Disclosure,” by John Samples.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Disclosure, Enforcement

The Costs of Mandating Disclosure

In this essay, John Samples argues against the fundamental reasoning underlying campaign disclosure. According to Samples, mandating disclosure “both reflects and fosters the decline of self-government in the United States.” According to the essay, not only does forced disclosure fail to achieve its goals, but it has the opportunity to “raise the cost of political participation through political abuse and economic harms.” Samples also believes mandating disclosure deflects attention from the content of the message and instead undesirably shifts the focus to the source of the message’s funding. He acknowledges that Bruce Cain’s idea for “semi-disclosure” would be a noted improvement over the status quo in disclosure requirements, but ultimately rejects Cain’s idea because of the inability to ensure that disclosure information would not be used for political retribution.

For the original essay that this piece responds to, please read, “Shade from the Glare:  The Case for Semi-Disclosure,” by Bruce Cain.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure

The DISCLOSE Act, Deliberation, and the First Amendment

In this policy briefing, John Samples discusses the potential impact of the DISCLOSE Act. The United States Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that Congress may not prohibit spending on political speech by corporations. President Obama and several members of Congress have sharply criticized Citizens United, and Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research

DISCLOSE Act—The Legislative “Fix” to Citizens United

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Since then, congressional critics of the Court’s broad holding have promised a legislative “fix.” These Members believe that the decision to recognize constitutional protection for corporate (and labor) independent expenditures in federal elections will have a pernicious effect on American politics. Accordingly, on April 29, 2010, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Chris Van Hollen introduced the “DISCLOSE Act.”

The DISCLOSE Act contains two main features. First, it requires corporations to include certain notices in their expenditures and file additional disclosure reports. Second, the DISCLOSE Act identifies certain types of corporations that would not be permitted to make independent expenditures.Leaders in both the Senate and the House have promised expedited consideration of this legislation. The sponsors intend for it to enter into effect for much of the 2010 election cycle. 

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, campaign finance, campaign finance disclosure, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act, Disclosure, Coordination, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Coordination, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Stand By Your Ad