The Yale Law Journal

March 2010

Maximizing Participation Through Campaign Finance Regulation: A Cap and Trade Mechanism for Political Money

William J. Rinner

119 Yale L.J. 1060 (2010). 

This Note attempts to reroute a burgeoning area of campaign finance scholarship and reform. Though many previous proposals have enshrined liberty or equality as the sole animating value to pursue through doctrinal and political means, few have considered the impact of campaign finance regulation on citizen participation. Those that have proposed participation as a goal often remain tied to unworkable or self-defeating notions of equality. In building an alternative model of maximizing participation, this Note rejects the premise that direct political action such as volunteering embodies a superior form of participation to contributions, but recognizes the externalities that the latter form may produce. It proposes a new mechanism for reform: a cap and trade policy in which citizens can increase their rights to contribute to political candidates or parties by purchasing permits from other contributors. Derived from proposals to regulate pollution in environmental economics, this mechanism serves as a helpful alternative to ineffective and inefficient contribution limits.