The Donation Booth: Mandating Donor Anonymity To Disrupt the Market for Political Influence

53 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 1997  

Ian Ayres

Yale University - Yale Law School; Yale University - Yale School of Management

Jeremy Bulow

Stanford University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 1997

Abstract

The privacy of the voting booth is now a core feature of our democracy. But surprisingly the secret ballot only became firmly entrenched in America toward the end of the nineteenth century: "Before this reform, people could buy your vote and hold you to your bargain by watching you at the polling place." Voting booth privacy disrupts the economics of vote buying -- making it much more difficult for candidates to buy votes because at the end of the day they can never be sure who voted for them.

We can harness similar benefits by creating a "donation booth" -- a screen that forces donors to funnel campaign contributions through blind trusts. Like the voting booth, the donation booth would keep candidates from learning the identity of their supporters. Mandating anonymous donations -- through a system of blind trusts -- would make it harder for candidates to sell access or influence, because they would never know that the donor had paid the price.

JEL Classification: D70

Suggested Citation

Ayres, Ian and Bulow, Jeremy, The Donation Booth: Mandating Donor Anonymity To Disrupt the Market for Political Influence (September 1997). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=60331 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.60331

Ian Ayres (Contact Author)

Yale University - Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-7101 (Phone)
203-432-2592 (Fax)

Yale University - Yale School of Management

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Jeremy I. Bulow

Stanford University ( email )

Room L 237
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-2160 (Phone)
650-725-0468 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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