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...

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...

Rescuing Politics from Money

T his special double issue of the Prospect focuses on money and politics. It is part of a continuing series on this set of topics, which is central to the project of reviving progressive politics. In this century, there have been successive waves of reform, beginning with the Progressive Era, which sought to constrain the influence of big money on democratic deliberation. The first of these, in 1907, actually enacted a law that banned corporate contributions to political campaigns. But at roughly 20-year intervals, special-interest money has found a way to breach the barriers. Then a new wave of scandals engenders a new set of reforms, and the cycle begins anew. The stakes are enormous, not just for small-d democratic politics in general but for progressive politics in particular. A dependence on big money pushes the whole political agenda to the right and depresses participation by the one proven antidote--ordinary voters. The most recent reforms, enacted in the wake of Watergate,...