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Campaign Finance Disclosure and Legislative Fundraising Behavior
Unformatted Document Text:  15 that money buys votes.” (Pogue 2007) Although not everyone has been so quick to presume that money buys votes outright, another author reviewed the contributions and votes on another bill and concluded that, “…as is often the case, the side making the biggest campaign donations won.” (Hamilton 2007) In keeping with the very limited popular understanding of court decisions identifying political spending as a form of speech protected by First Amendment, one author reviewing the MAPLight data says, “I can’t quite figure out why these contributions are even legal.” (Pogue 2007) These responses to enhanced disclosure suggest that when people learn that interest groups often make large contributions before important votes (whether they seek to buy access or influence) the nearly universal response is revulsion. In one sense, this finding is reassuring; we have found no previous evidence suggesting that disclosure of campaign finance data would have any effect on public opinion or affect the perception of corruption. Response to the MAPLight data suggests that the limitations assumed to be inherent to disclosure may be a problem with the presentation of data, rather than a weakness of disclosure itself, and that enhanced disclosure could influence public opinion and potentially voting behavior. In addition, increased disclosure of the timing of campaign contributions on the federal level provides anecdotal evidence that policymakers respond to the threat of enhanced disclosure. A recent article on new disclosure of campaign contributions on the Congressional level, which requires only that reports be filed more frequently, noted that, “There’s a high sensitivity to timing… nobody wants to cross a line that could bring bad press, an ethics complaint or even a criminal charge” ([No author] 2008). Discussion Recent technological innovations have the potential to give disclosure laws more bite than in the past. Sufficient information about now exists to make it possible for watchdog groups to publicize information about the timing of campaign contributions and proximity of these

Authors: Apollonio, Dorie. and La Raja, Raymond.
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that money buys votes.” (Pogue 2007) Although not everyone has been so quick to presume that
money buys votes outright, another author reviewed the contributions and votes on another bill and
concluded that, “…as is often the case, the side making the biggest campaign donations won.”
(Hamilton 2007) In keeping with the very limited popular understanding of court decisions
identifying political spending as a form of speech protected by First Amendment, one author
reviewing the MAPLight data says, “I can’t quite figure out why these contributions are even legal.”
(Pogue 2007)
These responses to enhanced disclosure suggest that when people learn that interest groups
often make large contributions before important votes (whether they seek to buy access or
influence) the nearly universal response is revulsion. In one sense, this finding is reassuring; we have
found no previous evidence suggesting that disclosure of campaign finance data would have any
effect on public opinion or affect the perception of corruption. Response to the MAPLight data
suggests that the limitations assumed to be inherent to disclosure may be a problem with the
presentation of data, rather than a weakness of disclosure itself, and that enhanced disclosure could
influence public opinion and potentially voting behavior. In addition, increased disclosure of the
timing of campaign contributions on the federal level provides anecdotal evidence that policymakers
respond to the threat of enhanced disclosure. A recent article on new disclosure of campaign
contributions on the Congressional level, which requires only that reports be filed more frequently,
noted that, “There’s a high sensitivity to timing… nobody wants to cross a line that could bring bad
press, an ethics complaint or even a criminal charge” ([No author] 2008).
Discussion
Recent technological innovations have the potential to give disclosure laws more bite than in
the past. Sufficient information about now exists to make it possible for watchdog groups to
publicize information about the timing of campaign contributions and proximity of these


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