During the election season of 2012, the Democracy Fund asked the Campaign Finance Institute and Bipartisan Policy Center to convene a working group of scholars to recommend research priorities for funders over the next several years in the field of money and politics. Eighteen prominent scholars of political science, law, communications, and economics joined in the effort. They began with a shared premise: fundamental changes in politics, law, technology, and communications have made obsolete many of the research and policy frameworks that have guided past work. Given the depth of this change, these scholars saw the following as the most fruitful priorities for now. First, rather than focusing on individual research projects, urge funders to support creating an infrastructure of interrelated databases, many of whose key parts already exist. Second, continue looking at subjects likely to receive policy attention in the near term, including small donors and transparency. Third, generate a more detailed picture of the new campaign finance system. Finally, seek to have scholars come together across specialties to reflect on what has just occurred and where to go next, ideally on a regular basis.
About the authors
John C. Fortier is Director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Before going to BPC, he was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he also served as the principal contributor to the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project.
Michael J. Malbin is co-founder and Executive Director of the Campaign Finance Institute, (CFI), a nonpartisan research institute in Washington, DC. He is also a Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany (SUNY).
Our thanks go to the Omidyar Network’s Democracy Fund, and particularly to Joe Goldman, the fund’s Director who encouraged this project at every step. Thanks also to Adam Ambrogi, Investment Principal, who joined the Democracy Fund midway through this effort.
The names of the working group’s members follow. Fifteen of the eighteen endorsed the report and have asterisks after their names. All contributed importantly to the group’s deliberations. The members were: Stephen Ansolabehere*, Bruce E. Cain*, Guy-Uriel Charles*, Anthony Corrado*, John Fortier*, Michael Franz*, Donald Green*, Samuel Issacharoff*, Kathleen Hall Jamieson*, David Karpf*, Ruth Jones*, Raymond La Raja*, Michael J. Malbin*, Kenneth Mayer*, Jeffrey D. Milyo, Nathaniel Persily*, Lynda W. Powell, and John Samples.
Our thanks to Reed Hundt, David Kirby, John Richter, Joe Sandler and Micah Sifry for sharing their perspectives.
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