The United States Supreme Court has ruled that giving money to political candidates is a form of free speech, and therefore cannot be regulated. Many of us profoundly disagree with this conclusion, but nevertheless given the recent change in the ideological balance on the Supreme Court this decision is unlikely to be overturned in the near future, so from a practical point of view we are stuck with it. However I believe that all is not lost. There is a strategy that could be implemented that would take account of this reality and yet still ameliorate the problem.
While it is argued that the giving of money is a right, it would be hard to argue that it was also a right for the recipient of the money to know who gave it. I would propose modifying the campaign finance laws in the following way. Set up an agency that would be charged with collecting and distributing all political donations in such a way that a wall is maintained between donor and recipient. All money would be passed along in random amounts different from the donation amounts and at times unconnected with when the donation was made. This way, although donors could claim to have donated money to particular candidates, they would be unable to prove it.
The main difficulty would be to devise a method of ensuring that the money really was passed along in a verifiable fashion to the proper recipients without anyone being in a position to know both donor and recipient, and without requiring an excessive degree of trust, which is in short supply in today’s political environment. This is a significant problem, and may indeed turn out to be impossible, though it would seem that blockchain technology may offer a solution. Unfortunately this technology is so little understood that it is hard to know for sure.
If it is not possible to set up a completely blind system it would be necessary to have trusted intermediaries to do the job, which would not be ideal, but should not pose an insuperable barrier. We already have people who are privy to highly secret information that could easily be used for personal gain yet we trust that they do not use it for such. IRS auditors are one group that come to mind. I am not necessarily suggesting we should use IRS auditors as a solution to our problem, but rather pointing out that the mere ability to act dishonestly does not always produce that result.
A combination of careful selection and very harsh sanctions for breaking the rules would keep any possible leaks to a minimum. It is not an argument against a proposed system that it might not be completely proof against dishonesty; we do not need to seek perfection, but rather a substantial improvement on the status quo. Most people are law abiding, and would hesitate before exposing themselves to substantial legal consequences. The likeliest result of adopting such a system would be that it would expose the hypocrisy of those claiming the free speech rights for their contributions. When they could not legally exert any influence on their donees (because the could not prove their donations) I would predict that the majority would simply stop donating.