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

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...

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...

Character and Campaign Finance

For years, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has steeled the spines of his fellow opponents of campaign finance reform by telling them, don't worry, no one has ever won or lost an election because of his or her position on the issue. Well, McConnell's maxim is losing its power. Senator John McCain's stunning victories over Texas Governor George W. Bush in New Hampshire and Michigan show that campaign finance reform does matter to voters, especially as an issue that defines a candidate's character. Signs of the issue's importance to New Hampshire voters, including those voters who gave McCain his victory, can be traced back to an August 1998 poll conducted by the Mellman Group. In that survey, 79 percent of New Hampshire voters overall said they wanted changes made in the federal campaign finance system. Even more interesting, a whopping 84 percent of self-identified "conservative Republicans" supported that proposition. When asked about specific proposals like a ban on soft money and...