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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cross-Border Campaign Contributions

One of the articles I am writing this summer is about the very few neighborhoods in a very few metropolitan areas that generate campaign contributions in large enough amounts to shape congressional elections in districts and states very distant and very different from those places--and how campaign finance law permits and even facilitates this behavior.  This article is really an expansion of a shorter, popular essay I wrote about the congressional elections of 2014. 

Geographical wealth disparities had started to decrease in the United States for several decades, but now this inequality is on the rise again.  For instance, Manhattan has approximately 370,000 millionaires (defined by total wealth) located in less than four square miles, while Mississippi has one-twelfth as many millionaires in 12,000 times the number of square miles.  There is a literature on cross-border contributions in law and political science, but rarely does it address how unequal the practice of cross-border contributions are because of this increasing geographical inequality.  In the rural House district where I was raised, for instance, there were more campaign contributions from a few streets in New York City and Washington than there were from all of that rural district.

I wanted to highlight two recent, helpful discussions of this neglected issue.  The Brennan Center has posted a report entitled "A Civil Rights Perspective on Money in Politics," and The City Lab has a companion story on "The Damaging Influence of Outside Money on Local Elections."

Posted by David Fontana on June 21, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Permalink


A project that is definitely worth concluding. Brexit for the UK today.Now we can use our money wisely

Posted by: Duncan Pattinson | Jun 24, 2016 9:08:39 AM

This is a really interesting and important project.

I hope you'll also discuss the question of actual "foreign" contributions and how we think about that category. In federal elections our law is very clear about no cross-border contributions when that border is the border of the United States, as opposed to the border of some state or smaller jurisdiction. But a Canadian citizen of Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit) has a lot more at stake in local elections in Detroit than does a random American citizen in Los Angeles or New York...

Posted by: Joey | Jun 21, 2016 2:43:22 PM

As a resident of the District of Columbia, I'd be happy to limit my campaign contributions to s member of the House of Representatives and two Senators from where I live. But I can't. I doubt that mine is one of the "few streets in Washington" referred to, but -- if contributing money is an appropriate form of participation in politics, which I think it is -- what else can I do other than contribute to campaigns outside the District (and, of course, to presidential campaigns)?

Posted by: Mark Tushnet | Jun 21, 2016 11:45:32 AM

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