Justin Miller

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

Recent Articles

Walker Walks Away from the GOP Race

The New York Times is reporting that this evening, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will announce that he’s dropping out of contention for the GOP presidential nomination. Though he was once a frontrunner in Iowa, his campaign has long been struggling for notoriety—a chronic problem now for many candidates competing with The Donald.

The latest CNN poll showed Walker’s support in Iowa at about one-half of 1 percent. His campaign was counting on a strong performance in the second debate to bolster both his poll numbers and donor base. That didn’t work out so well.

As I wrote last week, another indication of the increasing desperation of his campaign was the unveiling of his incredibly anti-worker and anti-union plan that would kill the NLRB, gut federal public-sector unions, and make the country one giant right-to-work wasteland. The move seemed to be a last-minute attempt to remind well-heeled big-business donors that he was the de facto candidate for big business and would stand up to the oppressive organized-labor regime.

According to the Times, donors didn’t respond as expected. “Everyone I know was just totally stunned by how difficult the fund-raising became, but the candidate and the campaign just couldn’t inspire confidence,” one donor said.

There are a few important takeaways from Walker’s impending departure:

  • His early adornment as the Koch brothers’ political lackey appears to not have been enough to earn Tea Party support in Iowa or New Hampshire. It will be interesting to parse out in the coming days just how much of a role the Kochs had in his dropping out—and the disappearance of his donor base.
  • Speculation that all these GOP candidates will be able to lean on their well-funded affiliated super PACs, no matter their polling numbers, has so far proven to be false, twice: Rick Perry had millions in his super PAC coffers, and Scott Walker’s Unintimidated PAC was well-funded, too.
  • An anti-labor agenda doesn’t seem to have much national appeal. Unions have more public support than they’ve had in years, and in an age of unprecedented income inequality, voters are better able to see through policies that are directly intended to decrease the power of the middle class.

As the AFL-CIO succinctly puts it, “Scott Walker is still a disgrace, just no longer national.” 

Why Major Parties Want Big Donors to Ditch Super PACs

In 2014, the Supreme Court dealt yet another blow to campaign finance regulations as it did away with contribution limits to political parties. The case, McCutcheon v. FEC, overturned the tenet of Federal Election Campaign Act that imposed individual aggregate contribution limits to national political parties and federal candidate committees.

While Citizens United created a whole new world of political money that operated outside of the traditional campaign finance framework, McCutcheon decimated that traditional framework by eliminating donation caps meant to keep the corrupting influence of big donors out of the party apparatuses and federal campaigns.

In the last presidential election cycle, the aggregate two-year contribution limit to political parties or federal candidates was $117,000. Now, as we enter the first post-McCutcheon presidential election, it seems that campaign finance reformers’ worst fears about unlimited aggregate contributions are coming true.

As the Washington Post reported over the weekend, both the national Republican and Democratic Party are urging their wealthiest supporters to contribute 10 times more than what was allowed in the last go-around.

“Under the new plans, which have not been disclosed publicly, the top donation tier for the Republican National Committee has soared to $1.34 million per couple this election cycle,” The Post reports. “Democratic contributors, meanwhile, are being hit up for even more—about $1.6 million per couple—to support the party’s convention and a separate joint fundraising effort between the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign.”

Such a rapid increase in contribution asks is turning the political fundraising world on its head. The political parties are soliciting massive donations in exchange for VIP treatment at the conventions, retreats with party leaders, and for the GOP at least, an explicit opportunity to “influence messaging and strategy.”

Some speculate that bringing mega-donors back into the traditional fundraising fold (and out of the super PAC world that has wreaked havoc on the parties’ functions) could reinvigorate the political power of the national parties, which have become eclipsed in recent years by individual candidates. Additionally, some prominent partisan donors see the benefit in donating (and wielding influence) directly to parties and, thus, the eventual nominee, rather than gambling millions by backing an individual candidate’s super PAC during an especially volatile primary season. Just how much of a big-money exodus from super PAC to political party there will be is still unclear.

While McCutcheon did away with contribution caps, there was also a backroom political deal late last year that tucked a vast expansion of party fundraising capabilities into a spending bill. That provision raised the limit for individual contributions to national party committees from $97,200 to a whopping $777,600. Marc Elias, who is now Hillary Clinton’s general counsel, was the key architect of that provision.

And Hillary stands to gain a lot from a well-funded Democratic Party, which she has partnered with early on to set up a joint-fundraising account that gives her campaign a small cut of contributions to the DNC.

The optics of all this doesn’t bode well for her supposed commitment to campaign finance reform, on which I wrote about last week.

Meanwhile, reform advocates aren’t happy with this new development. “This is a return to the old system of using the parties as vehicles to launder the buying and selling of government influence and decisions,” Fred Wertheimer, president of the reform group Democracy 21, told the Post

A Desperate Scott Walker Brings Anti-Labor Crusade to National Stage

Trying to woo big donors, the Wisconsin governor tries to bring his war on organized labor to the federal level.

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken
AP Photo/Isaac Brekken Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during a town hall meeting Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas. E arlier this week, Republican presidential contender Scott Walker detailed how he would bring his anti-labor crusade to the federal level, unveiling an expansive plan that would eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, ban federal public sector unions, and make the United States a right-to-work country, among a host of other anti-worker policies he said would give “power to the people, not the union bosses.” The Wisconsin governor’s campaign is tanking. Like many other former GOP standouts, he has struggled for air in a room that’s currently being dominated by Donald Trump. Rick Perry, who was seen early on as a potential front-runner, has already been forced to drop out. As recently as July, Walker was leading the polls in Iowa. He’s since plummeted to the bottom of the Iowa field with just 3 percent support . Worse yet...

The Labor Prospect: Walker's Union-Busting Platform

Scott Walker's plans for executive power, Bernie expands his support among rank-and-file union members, and Berkeley moves toward a $19 minimum. 

AP Photo/Isaac Brekken
AP Photo/Isaac Brekken Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a town hall meeting Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. W isconsin Governor Scott Walker, seeking to bolster his bona fides as the leading anti-labor crusader in the Republican presidential field, announced yesterday an ambitious plan to gut workers’ rights nationwide . In a speech in Las Vegas, he unveiled a policy platform that calls for eliminating federal public sector unions, instituting a national right-to-work law, and eliminating the National Labor Relations Board. He appears to be doubling down on his image as someone who’ll stand up against organized labor, but as Brian Mahoney notes for Politico , it doesn’t appear to be working. Walker’s national polling numbers have dropped to about 2 percent. While his plan would kill the NLRB, Republicans are...

Is Hillary’s New Campaign Finance Reform Plan the Real Deal?

Even if she's just trying to keep up with Sanders, her plan to overhaul campaign finance has reformers talking.

(Photo: Quad City Times via AP/Louis Brems)
(Photo: Quad City Times via AP/Louis Brems) Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters in Hampton, Illinois, on Monday, September 7. E arlier this week, Hillary Clinton unveiled an ambitious and expansive “democracy revitalization” pillar to her 2016 presidential campaign platform. “Americans are understandably cynical about a political system that has been hijacked by billionaires and special interests who will spend whatever it takes to crowd out the voices of everyday Americans,” the announcement said. “And with the rise of unlimited, secret spending in our political process, it is virtually impossible for anyone to really know who or what is influencing our elected officials.” Campaign-finance reformers have applauded the platform, which they say largely mirrors the policies that they’ve advocated for. “It’s solid and it’s bold and as good if not better than anything we’ve seen from a presidential candidate,” says David Donnelly, CEO of campaign-finance advocate Every Voice. “She gets...

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