Elihu Root Attempts to Ban Corporate Contributions to Elections

During New York State’s constitutional convention, which took place from May 8 to September 29 of 1894, reformer Elihu Root unsuccessfully attempts to ban corporate contributions to elections. In defending his proposal, Root argued:

It is to prevent the great railroad companies, the great insurance companies, the great telephone companies, the great aggregations of wealth, from using their corporate funds, directly or indirectly, to send members of the legislature to these halls, in order to vote for their protection and the advancement of their interests as against those of the public.

It strikes, Mr. Chairman, at a constantly growing evil in our political affairs, which has, in my judgement, done more to shake the confidence of the plain people of small means in our political institutions, than any other practice which has ever obtained since the foundation of our government. And I believe that the time has come when something ought to be done to put a check to the giving of $50,000 or $100,000 by a great corporation toward political purposes, upon the understanding that a debt is created from a political party to it.

The exact date of Root’s statements during the convention is unknown.

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