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Money and Politics: A Review of Ackerman & Ayres, Voting with Dollars

35 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2003  

Thomas S. Ulen

University of Illinois College of Law


In "Voting with Dollars", Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres of the Yale Law School propose a new method of financing federal election campaigns. First, Ackerman and Ayres criticize what they call the "old paradigm" of campaign finance reform - one that relies on limiting the amount of money that individuals and organizations can donate and directs a modest amount of public money toward candidates for federal office. Their view is that these methods of command-and-control regulation are bound to fail in their goal of limiting the baneful influence of private money on federal campaigns and, thereby, on public policy. Then, Ackerman and Ayres argue in favor of two related reforms: a Patriot-dollar account that every registered voter may allocate to candidates and a secret donation booth for private contributions to candidates for public office.

This review finds much to admire in the Ackerman-Ayres reform proposal. But it criticizes some minor administrative details of the reforms and raises two broader concerns: that the injection of up to $5 billion in public money into each campaign cycle might lead not to more deliberative democracy but to even more mind-numbing, trivial campaigns and that the amount of private money in federal campaigns may not be, after all, so large as to excite concern.

Suggested Citation

Ulen, Thomas S., Money and Politics: A Review of Ackerman & Ayres, Voting with Dollars. University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Thomas S. Ulen (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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