Purchasing Power?

Why This Workshop?

For too long, scholarship on money in politics has narrowly focused on the marginal impact of additional dollars spent on high-profile campaigns. Much less attention has been paid to the myriad other ways in which individuals or groups with substantial resources might shape politics, including the ways money in politics might shape the agenda of public debate, the range of viable candidates and policy options, and help determine the outcomes of consequential political conflicts.  

The workshop seeks to address this knowledge gap. To do so, Scholars Strategy Network along with the City University of New York's Graduate Center of Political Science and the Yale University Institute of Social and Policy Studies, with the support of the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations will bring together a diverse group of leading scholars from across the country to present new research findings explicitly linked to the policy-oriented workshop themes. At the workshop, presenting scholars will engage with leading organizers and other civic leaders, brought to the workshop with the support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The practitioners will bring a pragmatic perspective to the discussion and together the scholars, organizers, and other civic leaders will begin developing a strategic new direction for scholarly research on the topic of money in U.S. politics.


Day 1 Host | Open Society Foundations
3:00-5:00 pm | June 16, 2016
224 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019

Day 2 Host | Ford Foundation
7:45 am-5:00 pm | June 17, 2016
320 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

Heath Brown, City University of New York, Graduate Center, Department of Political Science 
Jacob Hacker, Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University
Avi Green, Scholars Strategy Network​

June 16 | Open Society Foundations

224 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019


3:00-3:30 pm | Opening Session

Jacob Hacker, Yale University

Sarah Knight, Program Officer at the Open Society Foundations

Laleh Ispahani, Director of the Democracy Fund, U.S. Program at the Open Society Foundations


3:30-5:00 pm | The $10 billion Election: New Approaches to the Study of Campaign Finance in the Post-Citizens United World

Chair: Michael Fortner, City University of New York

Erika Franklin Fowler, Wesleyan University:

Examining the Effect of Disclaimer Options on the Effectiveness of Group Advertising in Elections

Chisun Lee, Brennan Center for Justice:

Developing Empirical Evidence for Campaign Finance Cases

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law:

What do Corporations Have to Hide? Glimpses of Dark Money

Adam Levine, Cornell University:

Does Rhetoric About Political Inequality Reduce Citizen Engagement



320 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017


7:45- 8:00 am | Arrival and Breakfast Served

8:00-9:10 am | Breakfast Discussion: Engaging the Public And Media

Avi Green, Scholars Strategy Network

Rakesh Rajani, Ford Foundation Director, Civic Engagement and Government

Elena Letona, Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor 

Ben Chin, Political Engagement Director at Maine People's Alliance

Bill Allison, Bloomberg News


9:15-10:45 am | American Oligarchy? Donor Networks, Elite Influence on Public Policies and Priorities

Chair: Keesha Gaskins, Program Director of Democratic Practice-U.S. at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Eleanor Powell, University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Money and Internal Influence in Congress

Adam Bonica, Stanford University:​

Professional Networks, Early Fundraising, and Electoral Success 

Theda Skocpol, Harvard University:

When Wealthy Contributors Join Forces: New Research on Donor Consortia in U.S. Politics 


 11:00 am-12:30 pm | The New Face of Business: Lobbying, Philanthropy, and Corporate Organization at the State and National Levels

Chair: Mark Schmitt, Director of the Political Reform Program at New America

Alex Hertel-Fernandez, Harvard University:

Turning Americans into “Employee Voters”:  Employer Mobilization as Corporate Political Power

K. Sabeel Rahman, Brooklyn Law School:

Policymaking as Power Building

Chris Witko, University of South Carolina:

The Power of Economic Interests and the  Congressional Economic Policy Agenda

Respondent: Ruth Milkman, City University of New York


12:30-1:30 pm Lunch Discussion | The Political and Legal Landscape

Congressman John Sarbanes


1:30-2:45 pm | Broadening the Money and Politics Agenda: Race, Gender, and the Geographic Distribution of Advantage and Disadvantage

Chair: Ludovic Blain, Director of the Progressive Era Project

Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Drexel​ ​University:

The Political Value of Cash—Hard to Prove, Harder to Solve

Dara Strolovitch, Princeton University:

Thinking Intersectionally about the Relationship between Economic and Political Power: Three Lessons & Some New Questions

Michael Miller, Barnard College:

Buying In: Gender and Fundraising in Congressional  Primary Elections

Brian Schaffner, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Financial Capacity and Strategic Investors in an Era of  Deregulation

Respondent: Delvone Michael, Director of D.C. Working Families


3:00-4:15 pm | Evidence-Based Political Reform

Chair: Tam Doan, Research and Policy Director at Every Voice Center

Michael Malbin, Campaign Finance Institute:

How Policy Details Can Affect Major Outcomes: Comparing Small Donor Matching Funds  in New York and Los Angeles

Nick Carnes, Duke University:

Casting a Wider Net: The Untapped Potential of Programs to Increase the Economic
Diversity of the Candidate Pool

Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute:

“Overcharged”: The Economic Costs of Money-in-Politics

Respondent: Robert Peters, Director of Political Engagement with Reclaim Chicago


4:15-5:00 pm | Closing Session

Heath Brown, City University of New York

Amy Brown, Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government at the Ford Foundation



Tam Doan, Research and Policy Director at Every Voice Center

Ludovic Blain, Director of the Progressive Era Project

Mark Schmitt, Director of the Political Reform Program at New America

Keesha Gaskins, Program Director of Democratic Practice-U.S. at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Michael Fortner, City University of New York