Indecent Disclosures: Anti-Corruption Campaigns and Political Selection
62 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2018 Last revised: 6 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 13, 2018
Cracking down on corruption has become a key tool for politicians to build popular support. But we know surprisingly little about whether these campaigns actually affect the behavior of current and future officials. This paper evaluates the electoral effects of a common anti-corruption measure -- mandating that officials submit financial disclosures -- using data on 25,992 municipal elections in Putin-era Russia. Using a quasi-experimental design, I first find that incumbents are much less likely to seek re-election if they later will have to reveal their income and assets. Financial disclosures increase the risk that any illicit rents they accrued in office will be exposed. Moreover, this type of ethics law also reduces the number of candidacies among individuals likely to have engaged in tax evasion. I argue that financial disclosure laws operate as a personal audit, which generates public information for authorities to prosecute crimes committed both inside and outside of office. I show that where enforcement capacity is high, anticorruption campaigns can change the incentives to serve in government, even in regimes where many suspect other political motives are at play.
Keywords: anticorruption, political selection, elections, Russia, autocracy, rent-seeking, asset disclosures
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