Justin Miller

 Justin Miller is a senior writing fellow for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Rick Perry's Broke Campaign and Our Broken System

Running out of money isn't a problem for campaigns anymore, as long as they have billionaire-backed super PACs to do the work.

(Photo: AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)
(Photo: AP/Rainier Ehrhardt) Former Texas Governor Rick Perry during a campaign stop in South Carolina on August 13 T he newly bespectacled Rick Perry is facing an existential crisis in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. His foundering campaign committee has already gone broke and his super PAC supporters have taken the reins, essentially subsidizing his presidential bid until he can gain some much-needed momentum. After his failed primary run in 2012, Perry went back to the drawing board and was rumored to be running again in 2016, long before most other candidates emerged. He hired prominent political consultants and went through rigorous policy-training in an attempt to distance himself from his perception as a bumbling George W. Bush part deux. Pundits commended him and as the Republican primary landscape began to take shape, andmany saw him as a first-tier candidate. But as more and more candidates jumped into the ring, Perry struggled to distinguish himself, his...

O’Malley Joins Sanders in Calling for Public Campaign Finance

Yesterday, Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley added a new plank to his campaign platform: public campaign financing for congressional elections within five years. The former Maryland governor had previously supported a public-funding model in his state and had hinted on the campaign trail that he would come out with a substantive policy on the federal level soon.

The move comes as the Democratic field is being pushed by campaign-finance reformers to go beyond just calling for a repeal of Citizens United by endorsing robust public campaign financing. Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he would introduce legislation that would institute a federal public campaign-finance model.

Earlier this week, prominent campaign-finance reformer and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig said he is considering a presidential run as a referendum candidate, with a sole focus on restoring democracy through election reform.

Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is heavily reliant on mega-donors, has made vague platitudes suggesting support for public campaign-finance models in addition to her support for overturning Citizens United, but as of now she hasn’t articulated a clear policy.

While O’Malley’s plan would expand public financing to congressional candidates, it doesn’t specify whether it would be done through public matching funds, vouchers, a grant model, or something else. Nor does it address how to fix the ailing presidential public funding system. And it certainly doesn’t offer a realistic path for managing to get such a measure through Congress, but to O’Malley’s credit, nobody has proposed a cure for Republican ineptitude … yet.

Banking on More Than $15

An inside look at bank-teller organizing, the latest front in the fight for higher wages.

(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate)
(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate) Activists demonstrate outside a Wells Fargo building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, this past spring. L ast week, Amalgamated Bank announced that under its latest contract, all of its bank workers will earn a starting wage of at least $15 an hour. “We think it’s the right thing for our bank to do, and frankly we think it’s the right thing for all banks to do,” Amalgamated CEO Keith Mestrich told Buzzfeed News . “If any industry in this country can afford to set a new minimum for its workers, it’s the banking industry.” Though it’s not surprising that the union-owned bank is upping its wages, the move reflects a growing push among labor advocates, community coalitions, and financial reformers to improve the working conditions for the employees on the frontlines of highly profitable banking operations—the bank tellers who process your deposits; the customer-service representatives who answer your questions on the phone; the personal...

Surprise! White, Wealthy (Mostly Male) Elites Are Bankrolling the Campaigns

The American political system has been steadily shifting from democracy to, as former President Jimmy Carter calls it, an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” According to a recent big story from The New York Times, less than 130 families and their businesses account for more than half of the political contributions to Republican contenders and their super PACs.

And a new report from the Every Voice Center, a campaign-finance reform group, offers an even clearer depiction of the increasing political inequality: Many in the donor class are also neighbors. Half of the $74 million in large individual donations to ten presidential candidates have come from just 1 percent of U.S. zip codes.

(Courtesy of Every Voice Center)
 

Donors living in the posh areas along New York City’s Central Park have already given more money to presidential candidates than all 1,200 ZIP codes that are majority-black. Same goes for the 1,300 majority-Latino ZIP codes. In fact, contributions from the 1,200 majority-black ZIP codes total $1.3 million, and 19 mega-donors have each already donated more than that.

(Courtesy of Every Voice Center)
 

As Lee Fang notes at The Intercept, the elite donor class is quite white: Of the more than 50 individuals who have already given more than $1 million to the super PACs propping up the stable of candidates (excluding Bernie Sanders), only four are not white.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, when the Republican nominee’s platform—veiled as a “middle-class revival” plan—actually caters to a niche demographic of rich people.

There are some ways to fix this absurd disconnect in our political system. For instance, New York City has instituted a very successful public campaign-finance model that amplifies small donors with matching funds. Donors in the city’s 30 majority-black ZIP codes gave $2.1 million in the 2013 elections—more than those communities have given to presidential candidates in the last quarter.

The Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Finance Institute put out a fascinating study a couple years ago looking at how many more people across the city made small donations in city-council races, which had access to public-matching funds, than in state-assembly races, which didn’t.

Here’s the city’s donor distribution for state-assembly races:

(Courtesy of Brennan Center for Justice)
 

And here’s the city-council race:

(Courtesy of Brennan Center for Justice)
 

Clearly, measures like public-matching funds can expand the donor base and make candidates accountable to more people than just those who live on the Upper West Side.

This post has been updated to reflect that the Campaign Finance Institute, in addition to the Brennan Center, put out the study. 

The Labor Prospect: Summertime (Job) Blues

Death of the summer job, living wage politics, and why Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15 depend on each other. 

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
AP Photo/Alan Diaz In this photo taken Wednesday, June 10, 2015, Lashrundra Wilfork, right, helps her daughter, Nala Wilfork, fill out a job application at a job fair in Sunrise, Florida. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. O ver the past few decades, the vaunted “summer job” (the thing that would keep all these lazy college students from burying themselves in loan debt) has lost most of its purchasing power. For those with at least one foot in reality, this is not news. However, it may be surprising just how bad it has become. As NPR reports , in 1982 a college student with the maximum Pell Grant could pay for tuition by working 16 hours a week year-round (or a full-time job in the summer). Today, Pell Grant and wage levels lag behind the exorbitant cost of tuition—the same college student would have to work 35 hours a week year-round or more than 20 hours a day(!) at a low-wage summer job...

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