The Participation Interest

53 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Spencer Overton

Spencer Overton

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 2012


Lack of participation is a primary problem with money in politics. Relatively few people make political contributions -- less than one-half of one percent of the population provides the bulk of the money that politicians collect from individual contributors. This Article introduces and details the state’s interest in expanding citizen participation in financing politics. Rather than focus solely on pushing an incomplete anticorruption framework to restrict special interest influence, reformers should also embrace a strategy of giving more people influence. Reformers should accept that money produces speech and that “special interests” in the form of grassroots organizations are a democratic good that can stimulate participation. Increased participation makes government more accountable and responsive, and citizens who give even small financial contributions are more likely to become vested and participate in nonfinancial ways. The Article also presents policies that allow federal, state, and local legislatures to advance the state’s interest in participation. Such policies include tax credits, donor matching funds, exemptions from disclosure for donors of $500 or less, and relaxed restrictions on political action committees (PACs) and parties funded by small donors.

Suggested Citation

Overton, Spencer, The Participation Interest (2012). 100 Georgetown Law Journal 1259-1310 (2012), GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-119, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-119, Available at SSRN:

Spencer Overton (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-9794 (Phone)
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