A “straw donor” is an individual who illegally uses another person’s money to make a political contribution in their own name.
This practice is considered a form of political fraud and is illegal in many jurisdictions.
The term “straw” refers to the donor acting as a front or a conduit for someone else’s money, much like a straw is used to transport a liquid from its source to the drinker’s mouth.
The purpose of using a straw donor is often to circumvent campaign finance laws that limit the amount of money an individual or entity can donate to a political candidate or cause.
For example, if a wealthy individual has already donated the maximum allowable amount to a particular candidate, they might give additional money to friends, family members, or employees, who then donate that money to the candidate.
In this way, the wealthy individual can effectively exceed the legal donation limit.
Straw donors can also be used to conceal the true source of a political contribution.
For example, a business owner who doesn’t want to publicly support a controversial candidate might use straw donors to make the contribution indirectly.
Similarly, a foreign national, who is typically barred from contributing to domestic elections, might use straw donors to influence a political campaign.
Straw-donor schemes are considered a serious violation of campaign finance laws because they undermine the transparency and fairness of the electoral process.
They allow wealthy individuals and entities to have a disproportionate influence on elections and policy decisions.
Furthermore, they prevent the public and election authorities from knowing who is truly funding a candidate or political cause.
In the United States, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is responsible for enforcing campaign finance laws, including those related to straw donors. Individuals found guilty of participating in a straw donor scheme can face significant fines and even imprisonment.
The FEC also has the power to launch investigations into suspected straw donor activity and to take action to ensure compliance with campaign finance laws.
Use of “Straw Donor” in a sentence
- The investigation revealed that the candidate’s campaign had been significantly funded by straw donors, leading to a scandal that threatened to derail their political career.
- To circumvent the legal limit on campaign contributions, the wealthy businessman allegedly used several of his employees as straw donors, funneling his money through their accounts.
- The Federal Election Commission is ramping up efforts to detect and penalize the use of straw donors, aiming to ensure transparency and fairness in political campaign financing.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.