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 voters. And the donors were significantly older and more...

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...

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,...

Campaign Reform

A funny thing happened on the way to making soft money the symbol for all that is wrong with the nation's campaign finance system. Hard money--the stuff that is harder to amass because it is regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act and limited in a variety of ways--has begun to look like virtuous money to some people. Consider the following examples. In September, Senate candidate Rick Lazio of New York defended his heavy fundraising from out-of-state donors like the Wyly brothers from Texas (who paid for more than $2 million worth of issue ads against Arizona Senator John McCain at a crucial moment in the Republican presidential primary race), saying, "All I can tell you ... is that this is all clean, hard donors. These are all disclosed dollars. These are dollars that are protected under campaign finance reform." Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Backus took a similar tack in defending a giant fundraiser headlined by Barbra Streisand that took place in Los...

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 $200 or more account for...