When a politician breaks a campaign promise, aren't there measurable damages to voters and donors? When a politician says something to make money, and doesn't do it, how is that different from fraud?

  • 1
    Because the people in charge have a vested interest in not being held accountable? Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 14:57
  • If the politician makes a promise in exchange for money, that is bribery. A different crime. Assuming the donation wasn't in exchange for something then there is no considerance, and thus no contract. Also, most political promises are so vague that it would be hard to definitively say if they reneged on them anyway.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 19:18
  • No, bribery is if they personally receive funds
    – anon
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 21:38
  • There's also a separation of powers issue. If a court could enforce campaign promises, that could put them in a position of ordering or pressuring a politician to support or oppose a particular bill or policy, and constitutionally the judicial branch is not supposed to have such powers. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:56
  • 1
    You answered this yourself in your question. Because it’s nothing more than a “promise.” There is no way to legally enforce promises.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 1:57

3 Answers 3


Because there is no duty to be honest

Generally, there is no duty of honesty except in specific circumstances. These include:

  • when under penalty of perjury
  • when negotiating a contract
  • when immediate and direct harm would result from dishonesty (e.g. telling someone it was safe to cross the road when it wasn’t)
  • under most consumer protection laws, when engaged in trade or commerce (which politics isn’t)

Definitions differ but fraud requires both dishonesty and deception to acquire property or money or to cause loss. A vote is not property or money. While donations involve money, they are gifts and are given without expectation of reciprocity.

  • Like... the 1994 contract with America
    – anon
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:15
  • 5
    @Pro calling something that isn’t a contract a contract doesn’t make it a contract
    – Dale M
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:20
  • Isnt that sort of contradictory
    – anon
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:22
  • 2
    Why should it be contradictory? Whether something is a contract is determined by whether it satisfies the elements of a contract, not by what it's called. If I call my cat a dog, that doesn't make him a dog. And if I call my dog a cat, he doesn't stop being a dog. Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 22:53
  • I can call my dog a cat but it doesn’t make it a cat
    – Dale M
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 23:02

Typically the liability comes in re-elections. If the people think the politician lied about his agenda to get their votes, they can kick him out and vote for his opponant. How quick this happens is dependant on how likely the constituents are to flip, how badly you did your job promised, and what the population wants the person taking the job to do during the term (usually refered to as a Mandate). In the U.S. Federally, the House of Representatives are the most likely to be dynamic, and quite prone to change, as they all must be elected every two years. Next most responsive is the President, which must be elected once every four years. Least reactive is the Senate, which is elected every 6 years (though 1/3rd of the seats are up for re-election every two years, with almost every state having both senators in seperate cycles such that they will not be up for vote at the same time. 2020 Georgia has one scheduled senator election and one emergency senator election which is why they have two in that cycle).

It's also important to know which level of government they can actually make necessary legislation on. Fixing the roads is not something your National Government deals with, so you should look at state government (National government does fund Interstate Repairs, but the state is responsible for the actual repair work along their strectch of interstate. And don't go crying to your city council about immigration concerns... that's not their job.).

  • But, this doesn't answer
    – anon
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 15:57

There is a general understanding that the best intentions of politicians (if there is such a thing) may be checked by the checks and balances of the system. One politician might say "I want A, B, and C," and another politician says "I want B, C, and D," and the best possible compromise might well be that there is money in the budget for A and D, but not B and C -- even if B and C were on both candidates' election platform.

And even if a politician has the sole power to deliver a promise, with no need to deal and compromise, circumstances change.

Many political systems have ballot propositions and referendums for situations where the voters make a direct decision. When the voters elect representatives, those representatives are expected to apply their judgement in the situation at hand.

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