Welcome to Purchasing Power: The Brennan Center’s Money in Politics Blog. Our blog’s name is rooted in a hard truth: Many Americans believe that money is a corrupting force in American politics, and that government only works for those who pay. And who can blame them? We face a steady flow of news about record political fundraising and spending, policy battles between the donor elite and the non-donor majority, industry influence, public corruption, and more.
It’s a lot to take in—so much, that it can be tempting just to lump everything together under a banner that says “the system is broken” and call it a day. That’s why this blog will focus on providing specific, fact-based insights and analysis about money in politics. The stakes are too high to allow assumptions and talking points, or cynicism, to dictate campaign finance and ethics policy.
Some of the deepest challenges facing our democracy have to do with the interaction between money and politics, and we need to understand that interaction better and in more detail. Who wins and who loses in the current system? Just how much does money influence policy? What reforms, if any, show promise of maintaining a political system that works for everyone? These questions, and others, need clear answers.
Right now too little of the thinking around campaign finance and related issues — including at the Supreme Court — relies on sound data and analysis about how money in politics actually operates. At the Brennan Center, we use empirical information as much as possible in our efforts to reduce the outsized influence of money in American politics. Our Empirical Evidence Database offers an updated catalog of the most relevant research. But we always wish there was more evidence-based work to draw on, and we remain open to the possibility that future research and reporting will change how we move forward.
Political scientists, legal experts, and practitioners are working hard every day, asking and answering important questions. We will provide a public venue for this conversation while challenging conventional assumptions, identifying new possibilities, and clarifying current events in light of existing evidence. Above all, we will encourage thinking about money in politics and the law that is grounded in objective evidence. That’s what we’ll need to come up with solutions that work.
We welcome you to this conversation.
Michael Miller is co-editor of the Brennan Center’s Purchasing Power blog and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College. He is the author of Subsidizing Democracy (Cornell University Press, 2013). Chisun Lee is co-editor of the blog and a Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center.
Purchasing Power: The Conversation
This post is part of the special series designed to provide well-informed commentary, fresh questions, and new answers about the facts of money in politics. Dive in to 'Purchasing Power: The Conversation' here.
The views expressed by blog contributors are the authors’ own and not necessarily the views of the Brennan Center.