Archive for July 31st, 2009

The partisan self-interest behind political donations regulation

In my Australian op-ed for my new CIS paper on political expenditure laws I begin by paraphrasing a famous Adam Smith comment on cartels:

ADAM Smith, the great 18th-century economist and philosopher, famously observed that people of the same trade rarely get together without the conversation ending in some conspiracy against the public. When the Senate meets again after the winter recess, members of the same trade — party politics — will decide on how to regulate their political competition.

I’m referring of course to the bill to ban all foreign-sourced and anonymous above $50 political donations to NGOs, plus lower the expenditure and donations disclosure thresholds from $10,900 every 12 months to $1,000 every 6 months.

Proposals to regulate political donations are almost invariably accompanied by high-minded concerns about protecting the political process from improper influence through donations. But one of the great ironies is that while attempts to show improper influence by donors almost always fail, there is one clear prima facie case of the parties being corrupted by donations considerations: the disclosure law itself. Read the rest of this entry »