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Unpublished Paper
Congressional Disclosure of Time Spent Fundraising
ExpressO (2012)
  • Robert Brent Ferguson

This Article advocates passage of a law requiring members of Congress to disclose the amount of time they spend fundraising.

In the wake of Citizens United and other court decisions severely limiting lawmakers’ ability to regulate campaign spending, many scholars have turned their focus to campaign finance disclosure laws. According to some, laws requiring campaigns and donors to reveal the source of contributions and expenditures are the last bastion of federal campaign finance law. Yet despite a history of broad acceptance, disclosure laws rest on an increasingly shaky foundation.

The most troubling aspect of current disclosure law is that it contains loopholes so obvious and irresistible that many political players choose to spend dark money. Further, some argue that even when the source of political spending is disclosed, the information provided to the electorate is of questionable usefulness for a host of reasons. Finally, opponents of disclosure laws point to their potential chilling effect and threats of retaliation that can occur when the public learns who supported a certain candidate or ballot measure. Even those who support disclosure laws have recently conceded that perhaps the law should only encompass large spenders rather than those contributing only a few hundred dollars.

For these reasons, there have been calls to reform federal disclosure law so it is more properly tailored to serve its goals without chilling any speech. Many have proposed effective, intelligent changes that would improve the disclosure regime greatly. However, the current discussion about disclosure largely ignores the fact that there is a gaping hole in disclosure requirements: While the electorate receives some information about a candidate’s financial backers and can learn about a legislator’s votes and other activities, voters cannot discover how much time their representatives spend raising money, even though a legislator may spend much more time and energy on fundraising than on legislating.

The aim of requiring disclosure of fundraising time would be twofold: First, it would supplement current disclosure law by providing new, valuable information about legislators that is less susceptible to avoidance, is more useful to voters, and would not risk chilling speech. Second, it would discourage legislators from spending egregious amounts of time fundraising, thereby encouraging them to devote more time to the jobs they are elected to do.

Though this Article focuses on the discrete proposal of requiring disclosure of time spent fundraising, it also advocates further scholarly examination of enhanced disclosure of legislators’ activities. Such requirements, like the one proposed here, provide greater benefits and often lack the drawbacks of disclosure laws that seek information from nongovernment actors.

  • Campaign Finance Reform; Disclosure
Publication Date
August 28, 2012
Citation Information
Robert Brent Ferguson. "Congressional Disclosure of Time Spent Fundraising" ExpressO (2012)
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