Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Summer 7-24-2012

Document Type



A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor John Bender. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Perry A. Pirsch


In this thesis, I explore whether blind trusts present a viable option for campaign finance reform. More specifically, would either permitting (voluntary) or requiring (mandatory) anonymous donations for political campaigns allow for fully funded, yet privately funded, campaigns while preventing problems, whether real or perceived, such as buying influence (quid pro quo) or buying access, which are traditionally associated with large campaign donations? To study this question, I have examined the constitutional origins of the need to fund federal campaigns, Congress’ power to regulate campaigns under the Constitution’s Elections Clause, the constitutional protection of speech, and the concern of large donations corrupting the political system. Further, I have also reviewed and summarized the history of campaign finance law and salient court decisions regarding the history of campaign finance regulation. Finally, I have reviewed the current use of blind trusts by government officials as well as existing relevant literature suggesting blind trusts may be a viable option for campaign reform. Having reviewed the salient constitutional history, law, and discourse, voluntary blind trusts could offer a great deal of protection to candidates from the appearance of impropriety, while possibly working complementary to existing campaign finance restrictions. There are conflicting principles at play between making campaign finance trusts completely anonymous to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and republican principles of disclosure, the First Amendment, and the ability to police non-disclosure of donations. This analysis is important because there is a legitimate public interest in preventing not only the quid pro quo of trading campaign donations for votes or access to politicians, but protecting against even the appearance of impropriety. Voluntary blind trusts may prove part of the solution of campaign finance reform while offering candidates additional protection from even the appearance of impropriety.

Advisor: John Bender