When journalists or watchdog groups scrutinize donations to US politicians, they tend to focus on corporations and special-interest groups. In part this is because contributions from individuals are difficult to track. But it also stems from a widespread perception that contributions from individuals are less problematic.
“In many people’s minds, donations from companies tend to be corrupt, or have the potential to corrupt, while donations from individuals are seen as mostly ideologically driven,” said Edoardo Teso, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School.
But does that common distinction reflect reality? After all, many individuals are linked to companies, and if they’re senior enough in their organization’s hierarchies, they may stand to benefit a good deal from a particular candidate’s victory.
It’s an important question to ask, because donations from individuals make up the majority of campaign contributions — by a long shot. In 2018,