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Voting with Dollars: A New Paradigm for Campaign Finance [Paperback]

Bruce A. Ackerman , Ian Ayres

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Book Description

1 Feb 2004
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.

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Review

One of the few genuinely original contributions to the debate over campaign finance reform. -- Cass R. Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

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

This breakthrough book initiates the long-overdue effort to examine alternative approaches to campaign finance reform. -- Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union and Professor of Law, New York Law School

About the Author

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, and author of The Stakeholder Society (0 300 08260 6, pb. [pound]9.95), The Future of Liberal Revolution (0 300 05898 5, pb. [pound]10.95), and Social Justice in the Liberal State (0 300 02757 5, pb. [pound]13.95), all published by Yale University Press. Ian Ayres is William K. Townsend Professor of Law at Yale University. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Campaign finance lives in a time warp, untouched by the regulatory revolution of the past generation. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WANT A VOTE IN THE MONEY PRIMARY? 20 Oct 2004
By William Corbett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Full disclosure: I just started a non-profit with the authors to educate people about ideas like those in Voting With Dollars. Our website is at [...] Here's why I joined the effort.

The Citizen Sovereignty Act, a two-part legislative proposal detailed in Voting With Dollars, would invigorate citizen involvement in politics and remedy cynicism about campaign fundraising.

The Act would fundamentally reform federal campaign fundraising by extending voters the use of automated teller machines for publicly funded campaign contributions of "Patriot dollars," and; by rendering private campaign contributions anonymous, mimicking the secret ballot as a safeguard to the integrity of the political process.

A major benefit of these innovations is to allow a substantial increase in campaign contribution limits and associated free speech. Other, more incremental efforts to reform federal campaign finance fall short of the Citizen Sovereignty Act.

* The Act eliminates the sale of political access for political funds while increasing the funding and opportunity for free speech.

* The Act redirects the permanent campaign of political fund-raising toward all the nation's voters and away from the one-half of one percent who today make half of all contributions.

* By potentially involving every American in political fund-raising, the Act increases voter participation on Election Day.

Voting With Dollars details the Act and how it satisfies constitutional requirements. A model statute provides a concrete basis for an effort to restore faith in Congress and the Executive Branch.

Read Voting With Dollars. Take a look at [...] Get involved in making it possible for everyone to participate in the money primary of American politics.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vote with your patriot dollars! 3 Aug 2009
By Sing T. Loc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Voting With Dollars was a book that seemed interesting after reading The 2% Solution by Matthew Miller. Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres talks about the strong influence of money in politics and how we as citizens, can take back our politicians away from corporations (PACs, lobbyist, etc). Since money talks and BS walks, they have introduced the "patriot dollars" concept. This "dollar" allow us to give money to people who would normally not run for office because of the price tag of getting into office. We are still able to use these dollars for a Democrat or a Republican, but the option of helping a third party is made available. Ackerman and Ayres follow up the "patriot dollar" with their "secret donation booth." This can be accessed through any ATM (which should be readily available in America). The "secret donation booth" is designed to limit the influence of wealthy donors (they are not proposing donation limits). By doing that, politicians are more focused on what the general public needs, not what "special interest" need. They readily admit that money will always be involved in political office but their goal is to minimize the influence of large rich donors and increase the influence of "average" citizens. Excerpt from their book: "Short of the abolition of free markets and private property, there is simply no way to eliminate the influence of private money on democratic politics-and to paraphrase Madison, surely this cure is far worse than the disease." As for disliking the book or a negative feedback, I can't think of one because it has not been implemented. Every election cycle, we talk about campaign finance reform and still nothing happens. When a reform is suggested, lawyers find loopholes and exploit it. Ackerman and Ayres go through every possible loophole in their proposal and explain what can be done to make their proposal viable. Just as important, their proposal is Constitutionally sound.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Voting With Dollars 9 Dec 2011
By Hezron Karanja - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An alternative approach proposed in this book is novel. The idea that campaign funding should be taken over by the citizens. As for the government campaign funds, the citizens should be in control to divert that money the best way they deem fit. Each citizen with a $50 government issued ATM directs their share of the funds to a political party or a candidate of their choice, and all this is done anonymously. If the recipients of these funds do not know who gave it to them (other than it generally came from the citizenry), then the need for special interests and political paybacks will not arise. Perfect! right? Yes, at least in theory it is.

Practically it wouldn't work. Because such a change would require congressional passage, and common sense dictates that no politician will vote for such suicidal career killing bill. Special interests unfortunately have created a very influencial industry with epic powers to make or break politicians. He who has the deepest campaign finance pockets has most power, and congress will most likely never vote for a bill that eliminates lobbyists and special interests. They will all tell you it's a vice, but it's a vice they do not want to eliminate.

To correlate an example: Would a police officer or a criminal justice official wish for less crime? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it makes society safer, and no because - in a twisted way - crime creates jobs, opportunities and (like it or not) it makes colorful and distinguished careers.

In theory, we are the government of the people, for the people and by the people. But the prestige of power doesn't lie with the citizenry (even though our civic and history books lament as such). It rests with the politicians and with that, it extends to big oil, wall street, insurance industry etc. Our democracy is by far way ahead of most other jurisdictions around the world, but it is safe to say that the current US campaign financing has ultimately corrupted that democracy.

In 2010 the Supreme Court extended the 1st Amendment rights to Corporate America in the sense that they too couldn't be prohibited by Congress for their association and engagement in political speech. Which simply translates "that the flood-gates that had prevented them from flooding Washington with money are now open." I'm not a lawyer, but conventional wisdom tells me that the 1st Amendment wasn't created for Corporations, but for the human citizens, in the hope that they couldn't be prosecuted or persecuted for their political beliefs and speeches. Corporate speech and human speech are a complete antithesis. The recognition of Corporate speech as human speech is essentially selling access to the halls of power.

I have never called a congressional office in DC, but I guess it would take weeks if not months for my congresswoman to get back to me. But Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs would have theirs returned in minutes, because access to power is sold to the highest bidder, and as such, it is an illusion to think that the power is with the people: by, for, of the people or any other colorful mirages in the civic books.

I'm not really sure how this can be rectified. How do you rectify a system that has 'worked' for centuries? After all we are all humans and we make grave mistakes. Maybe eliminate campaign financing altogether? Free TV and radio spots, free newspaper ads? Cut Congress time into half with half the pay? And so I finish where I started, with just good ideas that look good on paper but will never pass Congressional floor.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little bit dry, but a very practical approach. 9 Nov 2012
By Kurt Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The biggest problem facing Americans is this: Their government officials are bought and sold like commodities. You vote, sure, but wealthy interests vote many times more.

Public financing, as it is presented in Voting With Dollars can work. I'm not sure about the anonymous component, but it is quite deliberate in manner. Sure, it is a little bit dry and some portions hard to get through but the idea is money.
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