Indecent Disclosures: Anti-Corruption Reforms and Political Selection
64 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2018 Last revised: 30 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 27, 2020
Cracking down on corruption has become a key tool for politicians to build popular support. But little is known about whether anti-corruption measures actually change political behavior. This paper evaluates the effects of a common reform -- financial disclosures -- using data on 25,724 elections in Putin-era Russia. I argue that financial disclosures function like a personal audit, generating information for media and law enforcement authorities to investigate crimes committed inside and outside of government. Disclosures increase the risk of illicit gains from office or past financial crimes triggering electoral or legal consequences. Exploiting staggered elections, I show that these reforms lead to fewer incumbents seeking re-election, as well as fewer candidates with suspicious financial histories. The effects are magnified where media freedom and law enforcement capacity are high. Increasing transparency changes the incentives for serving in public office, even in settings where other political motives may be at play.
Keywords: anticorruption, political selection, elections, Russia, autocracy, rent-seeking, asset disclosures
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