James Hoffman, Oregon's GOP challenger in the 2010 Senate race, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today making a rather novel argument: campaign contribution disclosure isn't good for Democracy. While it informs voters about a candidate's support, he notes, it also informs incumbents about who has supported their political opponents. And since incumbents are likely to win--and to have a lot of power--this makes businesspeople reluctant to finance challenges.
There's no way to simultaneously inform voters about who's backing a candidate and keep that information secret from other candidate, including the incumbent. And it's quite plausible, indeed, that victorious incumbents will hold grudges against those who spent money trying to get them ousted.
Is that rational concern enough to justify making political donations secret? After all, the secret ballot-the notion that it's nobody's business who you're voting for-is a cherished part of of political culture and publishing one's donations pulls the veil off.
I've long toyed with the notion that we should go the other way: allow unlimited donations, including from corporations. But force them to go through an institutions which strips off the names and pools the money, so it's impossible to see who donated, or even the size of the individual donations. Once a month, you get a check from the campaign finance bank, and that's it.
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