Donating Money to Candidates After They Have Already Won the Election

I am a big absolutist on allowing campaign donations as an essential part of free speech largely without restriction.  However, I have always wondered why we treat campaign donations after the election is over, made to the winning candidate, as anything but an outright bribe.  I guess in theory one can argue that the candidate does not get access to it personally (it used to be that retiring public officials could personally keep the remnants of their campaign funds when they retire;  the elimination of this rule spurred one of the last big incumbent turnovers in Congress as our elected officials rushed to beat the deadline and personally bank those leftover contributions.)  However, many candidates lend money to their own campaigns or borrow money with their personal guarantee, and so money paying off these loans does indeed benefit the candidate directly. And candidates have numerous ways to shift campaign cash to benefit friends and family.


  1. me:

    Campaign donations are ugly business. In theory, they should be unrestricted. In practice... ouch. I don't even think there's a theoretical way to ensure that they are clean, with the possible exception of going all general fund all the way (with the obvious problems).

  2. Not Sure:

    Until there is no benefit to be had in buying politicians, donations will continue in some fashion or another regardless of what "reforms" are made.

  3. PA32R:

    "I am a big absolutist on allowing campaign donations as an essential part of free speech largely without restriction. Well, for certain values of "largely"...

  4. mx:

    So do you think liberty extends to bribery? Should a politician literally have the freedom to take a giant sack of cash in exchange for a vote? I thought I'd heard it all with the whole idea of not requiring food service workers to wash their hands after using the restroom.

  5. jdgalt:

    I see all campaign donations to someone currently in office (or even to someone already elected who hasn't taken his seat yet) as bribes. Once a candidate is elected he should not be allowed outside income of any kind from any source until out of office. If that means no consecutive terms, it's a small price to pay. Lobbyists who can write contribution checks are the bane of honest government and need to go away.

  6. Arrian:

    When does a new campaign begin? Can you begin a campaign without first raising money? I think those are the practical reasons why you can't flat out ban contributions after a candidate has been elected. Modern politicians are pretty much always campaigning, or at least building up the capital required to run the most visible parts of their campaigns just before the election. (I would be surprised if historical politicians didn't do the same, even to a greater extent than modern politicians do.)

  7. ronwf:

    Would it be lawful to legislate that no individual politician could donate any money received as campaign donations to any other politician or party? All money received prior to election day would either have to be disbursed for documented expenses for that campaign or donated to the Federal treasury for the reduction of the national debt. Everyone starts at 0 for the next campaign. If a politician wants to donate money to someone else's campaign or to a political party or organization out of his or her own pocket, so be it - but not campaign donations, every penny of which would have to be accounted for.