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Expert Available: Supreme Court Ruling Unsurprising, Not a Threat to Democracy, MU Expert Says

January 27th, 2010

Story Contact: , munewsbureau@missouri.edu

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Concerns that a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling that strikes down the prohibition of independent corporate campaign spending laws will lead to more political corruption are overblown, a University of Missouri expert says.  Jeff Milyo, the Middlebush Professor of Social Science at MU and an expert in American political economics, says there is no evidence to support the claim that independent corporate and union expenditures cause corruption.

“There is no strong evidence for the idea that campaign finance reform, in general, prevents corruption,” Milyo said. “People redefine corruption to mean ‘influence by people they don’t like.’ If you define corruption that way, then you will always see corruption resulting from free political speech and association.”

Milyo also disputes claims that recent Supreme Court opinion shows any kind of activism. He believes the court stayed within bounds and ruled as expected.

“It was a very narrow and unsurprising ruling.  Long-standing precedent recognizes independence of campaign expenditures to be a safeguard against corruption and the appearance of corruption. The outright prohibition of independent speech by corporations and unions was an anomaly.  This decision restored some logical consistency to the court’s rulings,” Milyo said.

Milyo studies American political economics, particularly the role of money in American politics.  His recent work examines the effects of institutional reforms on political and policy outcomes, including the effects of state campaign finance reforms on the competitiveness of state elections, voter turnout and trust in government.

Milyo is the Middlebush Professor of Social Science and a professor in the Department of Economics and the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri.  He is also the Hanna Family Scholar in the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas School of Business and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.  Milyo received his doctorate from Stanford University in 1994. He has done post-doctoral research in political economics and health policy at Washington University in St Louis, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University. 

His research has been supported by competitive grants from the National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and his work has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Economic Review, the American Journal of Public Health and the Election Law Journal among several others.

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