corruption, Congress, government


In the aftermath of the indictment of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, law professor (and recent reformist gubernatorial candidate) Zephyr Teachout published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Legalized Bribery.” In it, she argued that campaign contributions are a “gateway drug” to bribes and that politicians are “pre- corrupted” by taking campaign contributions and doing favors for contributors. She wants campaign finance limits, public financing, and limits on outside income for legislators. Although Teachout used powerful rhetoric and suggested worthy reforms, I see her as offering an empirical hypothesis about the relationship between campaign contributions and bribery: the easier it is to take campaign contributions, and the higher the contribution limits, the more politicians are primed to be bribed and therefore the more public corruption cases will emerge.