Is Dependence Corruption the Solution to America's Campaign Finance Problems?

10 Pages Posted: 20 May 2013

Date Written: May 19, 2013


Lawrence Lessig has suggested that the answer to contemporary campaign finance issues is reframing it as dependence corruption problem. I examine the merits of this approach from a political science perspective, and offer an alternative way to look at the same problem. Professor Lessig’s original intent account rests on too many contestable counterfactual assumptions about what the Founders would have thought about conditions and political practices that they could not have imagined in their day. Moreover, the argument that the Constitution’s intent is direct popular sovereignty alone ignores the Electoral College and US Senate elections based on geography. Nonetheless, I suggest that a simpler alternative is to think of the problem as one of democratic distortion, and that the solution under the current constitutional constraints requires continuing efforts to open up donor participation to all voters, fixing the broken disclosure system and preserving the current system of congestion pricing.

Keywords: dependence corruption, campaign finance, democratic distortion

Suggested Citation

Cain, Bruce, Is Dependence Corruption the Solution to America's Campaign Finance Problems? (May 19, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Bruce Cain (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

518 Memorial Way Building 1
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
3013208227 (Phone)

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