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Jonathan Bernstein

Why Campaign Finance Laws Make Things Worse

Under current constitutional doctrine -- and, really, this has been true since the 1970s, well before Citizens United and other recent court cases -- regulations are generally incapable of preventing big money from ending up wherever it wants to go. 

Yesterday's fascinating New York Times deep dive into partisan money networks, state legislative elections, and the resulting policy outcomes really underlines the sometimes-complex relationship between campaign finance regulations and effective disclosure:

"Not unlike a political version of Cayman Islands banks, the networks allow political strategists to sidestep regulations and obscure the source of funds. Campaign contributions that would be banned or restricted in one state can be sent to a state where the rules allow money to flow more freely, often scrubbed of the identity of the original donor. Some groups work behind the scenes to orchestrate 'money bombs' of smaller contributions from hundreds of different donors, allowing the groups to provide candidates with large doses of cash -- fingerprint-free -- even in states with low contribution limits."