By now, most Americans think Congress is incredibly unproductive and remarkably polarized. But if we look at the hard data on our 2013 lawmakers, a slightly different story emerges.Continue reading
Are the 1% of the 1% pulling politics in a conservative direction?
In the 2012 election 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people. In a nation of 313.85 million, these donors represent the 1% of the 1%, an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States.
The more conservative the Republican, the more dependent that Republican is likely to be on the nation's biggest individual donors, a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of campaign finance data finds. By "biggest individual donors," we are referring to a group we named “the 1% of the 1%” after the share of the U.S. population that they represent. These wealthy donors may be pulling Republicans to the political right, acting as a force for a more polarized Congress. The polarizing effect for Democrats, meanwhile, is unclear. If anything, more liberal Democrats depend a little less on 1% of the 1% donors than conservative Democrats. As we explored in our big-picture look at the 1% of the 1%, the biggest donors in American politics tend to give big sums of money because they want one party to win. Approximately 85 percent of the top individual donors in U.S. politics contributed at least 90 percent of their money to one party or the other. By contrast, less than four percent of these donors spread their money roughly equally between the two parties (a 60-40 split or less).
Figure 1.The above figure treats all Democrats and Republicans as equivalent. In reality, both parties contain some moderates and some extremists. Some -- Ezra Klein, most prominently -- have argued that while small money exerts a polarizing tug on the parties, big money is consensus-oriented and centralizing. At the time, I responded that if big money was consensus-oriented, it was doing a terrible job of building consensus. I went further to hypothesize that big money might also be polarizing. Turns out I was more right than I knew then. Continue reading
It’s not easy being non-partisan
I’m often told that being non-partisan is an ambiguous position. Here at Sunlight, I don’t think anyone can accuse of... View ArticleContinue reading
In Praise of Partisan Politics
I always hear people deriding the partisan politics in Washington. It comes from both sides of the aisle and from a lot political independents. It's also voiced by many Washington elites like David Broder and Dan Balz of the Washington Post. But is it really true? Simply looking at this earmark fiasco in Congress I have to say that partisanship is helping to create more transparency. Now, I fully understand that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) have a personal distaste for earmarking - neither of them ever request earmarks - but one cannot deny that Boehner, Flake, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) were not making a partisan political decision when they decided to attack Rep. David Obey's (D-WI) plan to hide all earmarks until after conference committee. What Obey was doing was terrible for transparency and openness and the Republicans found an opening in a tough political climate where they could score points with their base and with a larger group of Americans. That's politics. And guess what? This political decision has led a number of congressmen to release their earmark lists to the public for the first time.Continue reading
Rising Above Principle
I may be wrong, but it appears that Mark Tapscott, who certainly knows better, is suggesting that the utterances of a politician should exhibit some small measure of consistency. This puts me in mind of something that a Tammany Hall pol once said. (I can't remember who, but I don't think it was the memorable and oft-quoted George Washington Plunkitt.) "There comes a time when a man must rise above his principles," the quote goes, and in partisan Washington, that time seems to come quite often whenever Congress is in session.Continue reading