Money in Politics

The mission of Purchasing Power: The Brennan Center’s Money in Politics Blog is to publish well-informed commentary, fresh questions, and new answers about the facts of money in politics.  We are interested in evidence-based inquiry and conclusions, as opposed to mere theory or conviction.  What do we know, and how do we know it? We hope this commentary will provide insight into the events of the day.  Americans face a steady flow of news about record political fundraising and spending, policy battles between the donor elite and the non-donor majority, special industry influence of government insiders, public corruption, and more.

The views expressed by blog contributors are the authors’ own and not necessarily the views of the Brennan Center. 

Want to write for us?  By submitting any material to Purchasing Power, you agree to the terms and conditions for contributors. Please read the blog's mission statement and submission guidelines before submitting, and send all submissions (or pitches) to purchasingpower@brennan.law.nyu.edu.


Announcing the Launch of Purchasing Power: The Brennan Center’s Money in Politics Blog

The Brennan Center for Justice launches a conversation about money in politics and the influences it creates in policy and political power. [Read More]

 


The Electoral Politics of Consumer Credit

According to a new statistical study, consumers of color and those who earn low incomes stand to lose, while lenders stand to gain, when their home-state U.S. senator rises through the ranks. Lenders protected by powerful politicians appear able to reduce compliance with fair-lending rules without expecting to be penalized. Reductions in fair lending are most pronounced in areas where banks have a record of giving campaign donations to these politicians. These findings, coupled with recent deregulatory moves by the Trump Treasury Department, have broad implications for the future of laws that serve to combat discriminatory lending practices. [Read More]

   

Voters Still Punish Scandalous Politicians, but Donors Protect Them

In recent years, expanded media coverage of national politics and the 24-hour news cycle have ensured that the public never miss a political scandal. Hamel and Miller study how the mass voting public react to such scandals and highlight factors that drive donor behavior in their aftermath. [Read More]

   

FEC Childcare Ruling Could Lower Institutional Barriers to Office

The Federal Election Commission ruled last month that candidates for federal office can spend campaign funds on childcare. In a male-dominated, aging Congress, the ruling could carve out some space for more representative newcomers. [Read More]

   

Trump Foundation and the Use of Nonprofits as Slush Funds

The remarkable case against a sitting president points to a larger issue in our politics: The phenomenon of politicians misusing nonprofits for their own gain is becoming increasingly common. [Read More]

   

The Curious Campaign Role of Donald Trump’s Foundation

In an extensive complaint and supporting documents, New York’s Attorney General says Trump’s foundation made nearly $3 million in illegal contributions to his campaign. Trump calls the suit “ridiculous” and says he won’t settle. [Read More]

   

Public Support for Campaign Finance Reform: New Evidence to Help Solve a Festering Problem

Paul D. JorgensenGeoboo SongMichael D. Jones

Utilizing a new dataset and original survey design, Jorgensen, Song and Jones achieve unexpected findings of use to campaign finance reformers. Contrary to much of the existing scholarship, they find that providing voters with more information can increase support for reform, and that framing the problem as a “broken system” that incentivizes elected officials to focus on fundraising instead of serving the majority of constituents — rather than as corruption — is most persuasive. [Read More]

   

It is not the money. It is what it does.

Abu El-Haj argues that not all money in politics is created equal. Some political spending amplifies the voices of the super-wealthy few. But money invested in building sustainable political consciousness and voter engagement is money well spent from a democratic standpoint. [Read More]

   

One Reason Trump Tax Cuts Are Benefiting Big Firms More than Anyone Else

As most Americans wait for the touted growth to kick in from the Trump tax cuts, we turn to tax scholar Jenny Brown to learn more about how large businesses derive significant tax benefits from persistent political giving[Read More]
   

Voucher-Funded Seattle Candidates Relied More on Constituents than on Non-Constituent Donors

Early evidence shows public financing vouchers that enable all voters to participate in campaign giving encourages candidates to focus more on constituents than on faraway donors[Read More]
   

Democracy Vouchers Broadened Seattle's 2017 Donor Base

The results are in from the country's first ever election publicly funded by vouchers--the 2017 Seattle municipal elections. Heerwig and McCabe find that the city's Democracy Voucher program has helped bring more donors who are not wealthy into the campaign finance system, but more work remains to achieve a fair and representative system. [Read More]
   

How Do Campaign Finance Regulations Affect Upper Class Bias in Political Power?

Witko's research shows that campaign finance regulation, even if weak, plays a role in the overall mobilization of organizations and bias with in campaign finance systems. However, campaign finance can be associated with access, which can give upper class contributors greater opportunity to shape policy. [Read More]

   

Trump Consumer Chief's Advice to Bankers Raises Questions About How Money Buys Political Influence

Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently told banking executives that, while in Congress, he would turn away any lobbyist who had not contributed to his campaign. He urged the lenders to use their influence to get lawmakers to gut the agency. But what about working Americans and debtors-can their influence measure up? [Read More]

   

Beyond Campaign Contributions: Employee Mobilization as Corporate Political Power

Corporate employee mobilization has become an increasingly common mechanism for businesses to become involved in changing politics. Setting limits on employee mobilization is an important way to ensure all American citizens are represented equally. [Read More]

   

What are the Russians Up To?

There are hints that Russia’s meddling did not end with Trump’s election. [Read More]

   

How the Trump Team Opened the Door to Questions about Financial Conflicts

The Trump administration’s refusal of advice from the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics leaves Americans wondering about improper connections between financial interests and government action. [Read More]

   

Will Strengthening Party Fundraising Result in More Moderate Politics?

Hassell's research suggests that party leaders connected to the party, that have ideological preferences, support candidates based on the party's preferences rather than choosing more moderate candidates to gain votes in the general election. [Read More]