In a recent issue of The Forum, Fortier and Malbin call for more research into the effects of disclosure requirements for campaign finance. In this paper, we report the results of a field experiment designed to assess whether such rules dissuade potential contributors due to privacy concerns. The paper is unique in that we explain why the field experiment never happened, and what we can learn from its “failure.” Specifically, we show that 2012 Congressional candidates were fearful about letting potential contributors know that their donations would be made available on the Internet, along with their address, employer, and other personal information. In trying to learn directly about whether contributors would be spooked by this knowledge, we ended up learning indirectly, through the actions of candidates, that privacy concerns may in fact limit participation in the political process, including among small donors.
About the authors
Dick M. Carpenter II is a Professor of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
David M. Primo is the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor at the University of Rochester, and is an expert on campaign finance, fiscal policy, and corporate political strategy.
Pavel Tendetnik is a regional strategist in the US Air Force and a recent PhD recipient from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. (Work and conclusions produced here are personal and should not be attributed to the US Air Force or the Department of Defense.)
Sandy Ho works in higher education student affairs and is a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs with research interests in mentorship, research, and policy.
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