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

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 Administration to prevent repetitive-stress injuries...

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 McCain's campaign last spring, a slew...

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...