Voting with Dollars


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A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance

Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres

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In this provocative book, two leading law professors challenge the existing campaign reform agenda and present a new initiative that avoids the mistakes of the past.

Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres build on the example of the secret ballot and propose a system of “secret donation booths” for campaign contributions. They unveil a plan in which the government provides each voter with a special credit card account containing fifty “Patriot dollars” for presidential elections. To use this money, citizens go to their local ATM machine and anonymously send their Patriot dollars to their favorite candidates or political organizations. Americans are free to make additional contributions, but they must also give these gifts anonymously. Because candidates cannot identify who provided the funds, it will be much harder for big contributors to buy political influence. And the need for politicians to compete for the Patriot dollars will give much more power to the people.

Ackerman and Ayres work out the operating details of their plan, anticipate problems, design safeguards, suggest overseers, and show how their proposals satisfy the most stringent constitutional requirements. They conclude with a model statute that could serve as the basis of a serious congressional effort to restore Americans’ faith in democratic politics.

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. Ian Ayres is William K. Townsend Professor of Law at Yale University.

“One of the few genuinely original contributions to the debate over campaign finance reform. Whether or not you agree with what the authors have to say, you’ll learn a lot from grappling with their arguments--including their striking suggestion that donations be anonymous rather than public. A bold effort to reinvigorate citizenship while also respecting markets and free choice, this book casts the reform debate in a fresh new light.”—Cass R. Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

“This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.”—Jesse Choper, University of California, Berkeley

“This breakthrough book initiates the long-overdue effort to examine alternative approaches to campaign finance reform, eschewing the traditional limits-driven strategy. It offers a refreshingly novel approach, while showing respect for enduring constitutional values.”—Nadine Strossen, president, American Civil Liberties Union; professor of law, New York Law School.

“Campaign money isn’t the root of all that ails our democratic system—it’s the way money gets into campaigns that’s the problem. Ackerman and Ayres provide a fresh and provocative way of thinking about the interaction between dollars and votes, and a fascinating out-of-the-box solution for what’s wrong.”—Robert B. Reich, Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy, Brandeis University

“Anyone interested in the financing of elections in the United States, and more generally, the relationship between money and policymaking, will find this book interesting and informative.”—Candice J. Nelson,

"This book is well written and offers carefully explained arguments for its detailed proposal."—Betty A. Dobratz, Contemporary Sociology

“The creative radicalism of Voting with Dollars can only help jolt Washington’s campaign ‘reformers’ out of their 25-year rut.”—Jonathan Rauch, Washington Monthly
ISBN: 9780300101492
Publication Date: February 9, 2004
314 pages, 6 x 9
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