The Participation Interest

Spencer Overton, The Participation Interest, 100 Geo. L.J. 1259 (2012).

Abstract:  Lack of participation is a primary problem with money in politics. Relatively few people make political contributions — less than one-half of one percent of the population provides the bulk of the money that politicians collect from individual contributors. This Article introduces and details the state’s interest in expanding citizen participation in financing politics. Rather than focus solely on pushing an incomplete anticorruption framework to restrict special interest influence, reformers should also embrace a strategy of giving more people influence. Reformers should accept that money produces speech and that “special interests” in the form of grassroots organizations are a democratic good that can stimulate participation. Increased participation makes government more accountable and responsive, and citizens who give even small financial contributions are more likely to become vested and participate in nonfinancial ways. The Article also presents policies that allow federal, state, and local legislatures to advance the state’s interest in participation. Such policies include tax credits, donor matching funds, exemptions from disclosure for donors of $500 or less, and relaxed restrictions on political action committees (PACs) and parties funded by small donors.

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