Make Dark Money Darker?

Dylan Matthews proposes a counterintuitive solution to dark money:

Maybe the problem isn’t too little information about donors and donations, but too much. That’s the argument of Yale law professors Ian Ayres and Bruce Ackerman. They’ve been arguing for a decade that the key to fixing the campaign finance system isn’t to strengthen mandatory disclosure rules but to abandon them in favor of a system where all donations are secret — especially to the recipients.

It sounds batty until you realize the authors’ key insight: for a quid pro quo to work, the paid-off party doesn’t just have to receive a kickback. They have to know they’ve received a kickback. In the current system, where you donate to campaigns by giving them your name and credit card number, or sending them a check with your name and signature, that’s trivially easy to figure out. It only takes a few keystrokes for Barack Obama to find out that Hollywood producer and Democratic super-donor Jeffrey Katzenberg maxed out to him in the 2012 primary and general elections.

But if we were to make donations secret, that link would be broken. Katzenberg could tell Obama that he donated, but there’d be no way he could prove it.