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Civic Engagement Could Trump Money in Politics, Professor Tabatha Abu El-Haj Writes in The Hill, Balkinization Blogs

Tabatha Abu El-Haj

December 18, 2015

Curbing money’s role in politics requires an informed and engaged electorate, Professor Tabatha Abu El-Haj argued in an essay published in The Hills Congress Blog on Dec. 18.

“’Small-d’ democrats need to wake up to the fact that money in politics is here to stay and that chasing after effective campaign finance reforms is a waste of limited resources,” Abu El-Haj wrote.  “Few experts believe campaign finance legislation has ever been particularly effective.”

Citing the findings of a 2004 American Political Science Association task force, Abu El-Haj noted that  lower-income Americans are about one-third as likely as their affluent peers to belong to an organizations that takes a stand on public issues.

Advocacy organizations that seek to represent ordinary Americans have grown overly dependent on litigation and lobbying, Abu El-Haj wrote, while “promoting broad, informed electoral participation has fallen off their agenda.”

As a guest blogger with Balkinization on Dec. 15, Abu El-Haj wrote about a little-known case before the U.S. Supreme Court that has the potential to undermine a California law that permits unions to mandate employee contributions to offset the costs of collective-bargaining representation.

“While the public is preoccupied with Citizens United and the flood of money it has unleashed into electoral politics,” Abu El-Haj wrote, “many political scientists believe that the solicitude of government officials to the preferences of wealthy citizens and donors results from deeper and longer-standing trends, including the increasing organizational advantage of socioeconomic elites compared to the middle class."