Ellen Miller

Ellen Miller is the publisher of TomPaine.com. She is a former senior fellow at The American Prospect and the Moving Ideas Network.

A public interest advocate with over 30 years experience in Washington, D.C., Ms.
Miller's career spans early work with Ralph Nader at the Center for Responsive
Law and the Center for Auto Safety, to positions on Capitol Hill at the House
Intelligence Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and the
founding and direction of two nationally prominent organizations in the field of
money and politics – The Center for Responsive Politics and Public Campaign.
Before joining The Prospect, she served as president of Youth Venture, a
nonprofit focused on creating a dramatic change in the role of young people in
contemporary American society.

A nationally-recognized expert on America's campaign finance system, Ms. Miller
is well-known as a public speaker, commentator, and writer on a range of issues.
 She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including Earth
Action, the Center for Responsive Politics, and the Family Foundation, and lives
in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Richard, and their two daughters, Anne and

Recent Articles

Who Gives?

Considering the almost hour-by-hour polling of the nation's voters, it's amazing how little is done to survey the views and backgrounds of the people who really matter in American politics: the elite class of political donors. Thus, an unusual survey conducted this summer is worth hailing. The poll compared a sample of 200 political contributors (half had contributed at least $5,000 to Democrats and the other half had given at least $5,000 to Republicans) with a general pool of 1,000 registered voters. The survey was conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates for the Institute for America's Future and the Nation Institute . The donor class is not like the rest of us--that much is clear. Nearly three-quarters of the big-money contributors in this poll (which used conventional random-sampling methods after the original pool of names was drawn from Federal Election Commission records) were male, compared to 48 percent of the...

Clean Elections, How To

Public frustration with political influence peddling hasn't been this high since Watergate, and thanks to Maine we finally have an example of how to do reform right.

T he 1996 elections for Congress and the presidency cost close to $2 billion, and produced a turnout of just 48 percent. Some say the late-breaking Democratic money scandals cost the Democrats the House. There is little question that the price we all paid was increasing disdain for the political system. We now have a rare political opportunity as Congress reconvenes to revisit proposals and strategies for campaign finance reform. But beware "bipartisan" reforms. Both parties have colluded in a system that has generated record sums of special-interest money. A better concept is nonpartisan reform. And we know that for truly far-reaching and clean-sweeping reform to be enacted, the public must be fully mobilized to support it. The record of failed reform attempts in Congress over the last 20 years offers a clear lesson: Packages of piecemeal reforms do not generate the requisite public enthusiasm. The first task is to frame the outcome we seek, to define where reform ultimately has to...

Golden Zip Codes

From the high-rises of New York's Upper East Side to the mansions of Beverly Hills, the wealthiest Americans are opening their wallets to invest in presidential politics. Candidates Bill Bradley, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and John McCain are all overwhelmingly and disproportionately dependent on wealthy and white contributors to finance their campaigns. While the candidates obviously differ on many issues, that bottom-line fact speaks volumes about who the most important people are in selecting our next president. And they don't look like you and me. By and large, it is the same neighborhoods--represented by zip codes like 10021 in Manhattan's Upper East Side and, of course, 90210 in Beverly Hills--that are funding all four front-runners in the race. This conclusion is based on a comparison of large individual contributions ($200 and up) to the presidential candidates with the most recent U.S. Census data, grouped by income, zip code, and race. Contributions of $...

The Hard Truth about McCain's Soft Money Ban

Everyone jumped all over John McCain after the news broke that he had intervened with the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of a generous campaign contributor. Here's a candidate who has made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his campaign, and he was caught committing a blatant act of favoritism for a contributor. What could be worse than that? Lots. The real scandal is not that McCain did the favor despite his crusade to clean up government. Nor is it that "everybody is tainted by the system," as McCain himself said. The real story is that McCain's campaign finance reform proposal won't clean up the sort of mess McCain--and every other candidate--finds himself in. McCain wants a ban on "soft money," the unlimited contributions that flow into political parties spawned by a loophole in the election laws. Soft money is a real scourge on the body politic, and eliminating it would be a significant step. But when McCain took money from Paxson Communications's executives...