Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 429–445 | Cite as

Managing the Risks of Corporate Political Donations: A Utilitarian Perspective



This paper applies a utilitarian analysis to corporate political donations. Unlike the more common rights-based analyses, it is argued that the optimal policy is the one that best satisfies society’s rational preferences concerning donor influence, adequate financing, donor pressure and the cost of maintaining and enforcing the democratic system. This analysis suggests that a ban is best if it would be generally observed and sufficient financing from other sources is available, otherwise a donation cap is a better option. Further, lobbyists should be banned from donating small gifts and drafting bills for candidates. The impact of disclosure and other risk management mechanisms are also considered.


Utilitarianism Goodin Corporate political donations Political finance Lobbying 



We wish to thank Gordon Boyce, Cary Di Lernia, Lorne Cummings, Dennis Arnold, anonymous reviewers and the delegates of the 6th Australasian Conference on Social and Environmental Accounting Research who provided valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. We also wish to acknowledge financial support of Macquarie University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Accounting and Corporate GovernanceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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