Random thought of the day

What if it was required political donations were anonymous rather than transparent? If the donations were collected by blind trust (or some such thing) anyone could say “I gave you X dollars.” Who the politician owed their loyalty to would be unknown to the politician!

It may be the problems of such a system would be fewer and less severe than those of complete transparency.


13 thoughts on “Random thought of the day

  1. I’d just show the check to the congressman I was trying to bribe as I slipped it into the envelope.

    Or donate $397.24 and tell him to watch his bank balance.


  2. I like the idea too, but like Matt D said, it might be fairly easy to get around it.

    It should be kept in mind, though, that no matter how determined we are to “fix” the system, any individual determined to do so can get around it. That’s why it’s far more important to encourage honesty (enforced mostly by public shame) than to come up with a single rule, or a set of rules, that would “fix” everything.

    And I would go so far as to say that honesty in a great majority of individuals is far more important than honesty in a politician…in part, because if a politician is found to be dishonest, the great majority would be more likely to hold that politician accountable.

  3. Your proposal presumes honesty on the part of those donating, such that they would not demonstrate to the readily bribed legislator that they had, indeed, been the ones to donate 153,297.27 to their campaign.

    I would rather presume dishonesty on the part of all involved. First, because it is easier to detect, and second, because it seems much more likely than the alternative.

    Thus at least knowing who tried to buy the politician, and what politician took bribes from what individuals, groups, PACs, and corporations, allows voters to judge the votes on issues against donations.

  4. The reason corruption takes place is that the corruptee is pretty sure that there will be no meaningful consequences. Either there will be no investigation, or there will be no conviction, or there will be no punisment that can be regarded as damaging.

    I recommend bounties. Not just offering rewards to witnesses and whistleblowers, but offering bonuses to prosecutors who charge and convict elected and appointed officials. For purposes of arguement: three months’ salary for a local official, six months for a city one, a year for a state officer and five years for a Senator.

    Couple that with punishments that recognize the severity of the damage to democracy that corruption does: a flat ten years in prison for every ten thousand dollars or fraction thereof of value involved, with an automatic death penalty at $1 million. Use current sequestration laws to recover the bounties from the criminal’s properties, and the operation becomes revenue neutral.

    Once there’s not just a possibility but a likelihood that some smart prosecutor will come around looking for scalps, and a certanty that it means total professional and personal destruction when he does, it’ll become a lot harder to convince Congressman Blowhard to ‘help out’ with your business for a little gratuity.

    It won’t end corruption completely- but it will help weed out the stupid, and that’s worth quite a lot right there.

  5. Wow Joe, I had the EXACT same thought today while listening to the AAR podcast when Mark mentioned the narrow defeat of the Disclose act.

  6. matt d, and mikee,

    You miss the point of the blind trust (holding company, whatever). The politician would not be able to see the individual donation amounts. They could never know the exact balance and only withdraw the money once a month and in $1000 (or some such thing) increments.

  7. Nope, you missed the point that the heavy donors would simply tell the candidate that they were sending his blind trust or whatever a healthy chunck of change. Remember how those anonymous credit card donations to the current lier-in-chief went? Nobody knew who sent the money, but the message was loud and clear.

  8. Since there is a kinda/sorta system in place already called “Bundling”, and it seems that Most of the “Bundlers” end up in Prison after the Campaign (remember Johnny Chung?), I prefer the Opposite Methodology: every penny from every source gets posted on the FEC’s website every day, including those “Anonymous” Donations from those who give to Foundations, Union Coffers, and PACs. To keep it Fair and Balanced, this could help when it comes time to hold Confirmation Hearings : “So Ms. Sebelius, you received $250,000 from Dr. Tiller, who runs a Late Term Abortion clinic. Will you be impartial and enforce Federal Law against funding such activities, or will you be swayed to “Bend the Rules”? Before you answer, keep in mind you are under Oath, and can be Prosecuted for Lying to Congress.” That would be fun to watch.

  9. The danger with DaveP.’s approach is that it would potentially corrupt prosecutors. While a smart, honest prosecutor would hunt down those corrupt officials breaking the law, a smart, corrupt prosecutor would make up evidence against officials–even have an official or two executed, to show he really means business–to get money, power, and fame.

    Like I said before, it’s rather tricky to come up with a rule, or a set of rules, that will make everything better. While some rules may be better than others–and so the discussion is always worthwhile–every system ultimately depends on one thing: will the people be honest, and how much dishonesty will they put up with in their officials?

  10. Alpheus, ANY system that appoints or elects prosecutors has the same weakness. Go ask ex-Senator Stevens of Alaska or Martha Stewart. I’d rather they concentrate their ambition on finding and breaking false civil servants than on actual citizens. And, let’s face it: in an age that contains Congressmen like Rep. “Cold Cash” Jefferson of Louisiana and Barney Frank, it’s not like there wouldn’t be enough low-hanging fruit that they would NEED to spend time making things up…

  11. Bribes come in as many forms as there are people who bribe, multiplied by the number of people who take bribes, and then cubed.

    I know; how about we put in place a simple set of rules with which government must comply, then require that each government official swear an oath to said set of simple rules? Oh wait…

    Yup. The Founders said it pretty well when they warned us that only a moral people could keep this republic. When rule breakers are policing the law makers, who break the rules, what have you got? America today. That’s what you’ve got.

    Some say we need term limits. “How dare you take bribes” they say. “We’ll show you. We’ll kick your bribe-taking ass out and replace you with a new bribe-taker, who now knows for sure that he has only one or two terms to get his bribes in. That’ll show you.” I also refer to term limits as “Voter restriction”.

    Others say we need campaign finance reform. This is, essentially, Congress telling us, “How dare you bribe us into breaking the rules we swore an Oath to uphold! You dirty bastards. We’ll show you. We’ll show you by limiting what YOU can do, while of course we may operate as we wish. Because we’d of course be pure (saints, really) if you petty citizens were restricted enough.” Also voter restriction.

    Again (all together now); When rule breakers are policing the law makers, who break the rules, what have you got? America today. That’s what you’ve got.

  12. We already have this. HRClinton ‘magically’ guesses right on cattle futures, and her buy orders are back dated. Sundry congressman walk into a casino with their rich lobbyist friend, both gamble, who can keep track of chips, and oooh – the Congressman has two hundred thousand dollars more chips than he started with, just lucky that day. Senators are completely surprised to find out that they just happened to funnel tax money to companies owned by their spouses and children.

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