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
Elizabeth.

Recent Articles

The Courting of John McCain

Can George W. Bush get John McCain's endorsement? That may turn out to be the most important political question of the spring. Bush isn't off to a good start: He's made a series of remarks antagonizing the McCain camp, even as both his and McCain's surrogates have been trying to bring the two sides together. But ever since the maverick Arizonan suspended his campaign, speculation has been rife that some kind of deal might be worked out around McCain's signature issue, campaign finance reform. In theory, Bush and McCain are miles apart on the reform issue. Bush is on the record as favoring, at most, a ban on corporate and union soft money contributions, but insists on allowing such contributions from individuals--a huge loophole. McCain wants a complete ban on soft money. But look a little closer at the two candidates' positions, and the outlines of a possible deal begin to take shape. While McCain has built up a vaunted reputation as a campaign finance reformer, the proverbial camel's...

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

The final numbers aren't in yet, but we may soon be calling this the first $4-billion presidential election in U.S. history. (About half as much was spent by parties and candidates a mere four years ago.) With most of the campaign money coming from special interests, the need for comprehensive reform intensifies. A new wave of activism around the issue of democracy seems to be on the rise. But that's not to say the going will be easy. Although "clean money" initiatives have been approved in Maine, Arizona, and Massachusetts, similar reform proposals were rejected this November in Missouri and Oregon. What happened? It may have been that in both states there were just too many other issues competing for voters' attention. In Oregon, where a clean-money proposal lost by a percentage-point margin of 59 to 41, the question was one of 26 on the ballot and expensive battles were fought over many of the other initiatives. In Missouri, where a reform proposition lost...

Reform You Can Take to the Bank

At its core, the McCain-Feingold bill was about getting rid of soft money. So far, so good. But as part of the deal, the Senate voted to hike hard-money limits. The Senate has thus exacerbated the money-and-politics problem. Assuming that the bill becomes law, we can expect a future in which campaign costs soar, elite donors tighten their grip on lawmakers, special interests get a bigger payback from politicians, and incumbents remain entrenched. So much for the promise of campaign finance reform. As we have followed the money trail, we have seen how incumbents beat challengers at the fundraising game. In 2000, Senate incumbents outraised challengers in hard money by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (The gap is even starker in contributions from high-level hard-money donors, the very ones likely to take advantage of the new $2,000 per-candidate, per-election limits.) The incumbents raised an average of $1.8 million from donors of at least $1,...

The Care and Feeding of Fat Cats

Last issue ["Labor's Loss," August 14, 2000], we described how, in the race for campaign dollars, business is outpacing labor by an increasingly wide margin: eight to one in 1994, 11 to one in 1996 and 1998, and 15 to one in the 2000 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The contribution gap between business and labor is nearly half a billion dollars wide: $521 million to $35 million. This suggests that no matter which party is in control of Congress after November 7, members will be beholden more to business donors than to labor interests. This imbalance helps explain why Congress has rushed to eliminate the inheritance tax on all large estates, which would cost the Treasury $50 billion and benefit a tiny number of very wealthy families. And it also explains why the House just voted, once again, to delay the implementation of new "ergonomic" safety rules promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health...

Swearing Off Soft Money - Sort Of

As the most expensive Senate race in the country ($63.4 million raised by all candidates as of September 20), the New York contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Representative Rick Lazio is drawing almost as much attention as the presidential campaign. Lazio made news by challenging Clinton, in the midst of their first televised debate, to agree to an immediate ban on using soft money--the large chunks of unregulated contributions that are funneled through parties or independent groups--to pay for their broadcast ads. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Clinton agreed, setting off a wave of copycat gestures. Al Gore renewed his pledge to renounce soft money if George W. Bush did, and software millionaire Maria Cantwell , the Democratic Senate nominee in Washington State, made a similar call in her race. What's really going on here? It could be that politicians are starting to realize that voters do care about money in politics. In John...

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