The Campaign Finance Institute, a division of the National Institute on Money in State Politics

aka CFI   |   Washington, DC   |  www.campaignfinanceinstitute.org
This organization has not appeared on the IRS Business Master File in a number of months. It may have merged with another organization or ceased operations.

Mission

The Nation’s Leading Think Tank on Money in Politics in Federal and State Elections:
Nonpartisan, Policy-Relevant and Timely; Meeting Peer-Reviewed Standards Serving Public Needs

Recent CFI research has been on:

Participation by small donors
Party and non-party organizations
Disclosure
Comparative State Policies
Competition
Future Policy Agendas

Ruling year info

2000

Executive Director

Dr. Michael J. Malbin

Main address

1775 I St., NW Suite 1150

Washington, DC 20006 USA

Show more contact info

Formerly known as

Campaign Finance Forum

EIN

31-1684930

NTEE code info

Citizen Participation (W24)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (V05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

A few years ago, the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) began describing its agenda with the need for fresh thinking. Categories that had shaped policy and research in campaign finance since 1974 no longer fit the landscape after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310 (2010). Contribution limits were being circumvented. Disclosure was being undermined. Candidates facing the threat of independent spending funded by mega-donors were increasingly reluctant sign up for public financing. In light of the ferment, CFI argued that scholars and policy makers needed to take stock. With the country now in its fourth election cycle since Citizens United, one can step aside from the initial rhetoric toward a more fully thought out agenda – one shaped by the conviction that action will be more effective when it is based on objective research designed to serve public needs.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

The Campaign Finance Institute Programs

ONGOING PRODUCTS AND UTILITIES
CFI’s core work product over the years has included ongoing and historical materials on federal and state elections designed for journalists and other interested members of the general public. In addition to these ongoing reports, will build upon other scholars, and develop a database presenting the changes in every state’s campaign finance laws over time. Understanding the effects of differing laws is a key step toward making informed recommendations for new policies. The database will be used for CFI’s own research plan, described below, but will also be made freely available in standard formats to scholars and in a visual web format for general users.

RESEARCH INITIATIVES
Disclosure: Over the next two years, CFI proposes at least one roundtable in which state and federal regulators, practitioners, and scholars discuss the variety of disclosure regimes in effect in the United States. CFI will also engage in two pieces of disclosure related research.
• One will follow up another scholar’s experimental survey research on the effects of disclosure thresholds on small donors.
• The other will be the first steps of a longer effort to explore how variations in disclosure laws and contribution limits affect party and non-party organizational strategies and activities.
Non-party organizations and polarization in congressional primaries: It is frequently said that non-party organizations have a strong polarizing effect on politics through their role in congressional primaries, but this impact is disputed among scholars. CFI will contract with Robert Boatright (the author of Getting Primaried [2013]) to analyze independent spending groups during the 2014 primaries.
Small Donors in federal, state and local elections
Mobilization, Bundling and Polarization: CFI has been recognized for some years for its research on small donors. In a 2013 journal article, CFI’s Executive Director disputed the claim that small donors are more polarizing than large donors. The future effects may depend on whether the economics of small donor mobilization favors large, national organizations with databases of polarized activists, or whether technology leads to a dispersion of organizing power. CFI plans to study small-donor bundling organizations in the elections of 2014 and 2016.
Small Donor Matching Funds: CFI will continue its research on public financing in New York City with a new report on the effects of small donor matching funds in the New York City and Los Angeles elections of 2013.
Tax credits and rebates: Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) has introduced a bill to revive federal tax credits and deductions. Tax credits are also part of a bill introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). In light of this, CFI plans to work cooperatively with the American Enterprise Institute to revise and update a twelve year old study on tax credits in the states, followed by a public roundtable to stimulate wider discussion.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

CFI's mission is to produce objective and academically credible research about money in politics to serve the needs of those in the policy community who are working to improve democratic representation, along with the needs of journalists and other thought leaders who want to help citizens better understand how the system is working. CFI also creates and freely disseminates tools to stimulate new scholarly research, along with other tools to be used by a more general audience of “citizen policy analysists".

CFI's unique approach to serving these goals is emphasized in these four arenas:

• Broadening participation: CFI has been a leader over the past decade in stimulating an interest in and knowledge of policies designed to increase the role of small donors. This will continue, with an emphasis on comparing the many varieties of policy alternatives in states and localities that claim to serve the same goal.

• Understanding New Structures: Thinking seriously about the future should be based on a firm grasp of where one now stands. Much of the critical commentary after Citizens United was based on stylized and oversimplified understandings. CFI's work has enriched our grasp of the new kind of organizations now participating in federal and state politics. This work will deepen in 2016-18.

• Expanding the Policy Knowledge Base: CFI's work is based on the idea that policy should be built on the best possible knowledge base. Testing the impact of public policy choices is much enhanced by looking across jurisdictions and over time. Unfortunately, this has not been possible in the field of money in politics. CFI, on the recommendation of scholars in the field, is now developing an historical 50-state database of state campaign finance laws to empower such research. A simple, look-up version will also be designed for the general user.

• Ongoing products and utilities: CFI will continue developing and updating its historically consistent federal and state statistics to help journalists and others put current developments into context.

The Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) occupies a unique position in the money-and-politics infrastructure. There are many public interest and advocacy organizations working in the field of money and politics, as well as two very good data repositories. However there are no other policy analysis research institutes with ongoing expertise in the field of money and politics. First, CFI as a research institute stands between data providers and policy makers without being activists. In this capacity CFI is a power user of the state and federal data that others generate, using them to produce serious, detailed and timely analyses for policy makers, activists, and journalists, as well as scholars. Second, CFI is also not the same as a department of pure theory-building scholars. Instead, CFI is a boutique think tank – the nation's only nonpartisan and objective research institute focused solely on money in politics. As an institute run by scholars, the core of its research is designed to meet standards of peer review. And yet, the work clearly is applied research. Third, as an applied research institute with staff, rather than a network of scholars working on discrete projects, CFI is in a position to provide information and analyses to policy makers in real time as they deliberate. As an ongoing and specialized organization, CFI is consistently publishing material that keeps its tools sharp and available for use on priority subjects as needed. In addition, CFI also has both the time and the will to “translate" what is known from the academic literature into salient documents for policy makers.

CFI has been collaborating with the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) for years, starting with CFI’s groundbreaking research on small donors, which was often built up from NIMSP’s data.Both organizations realized how much more we could do if we integrated our data, experience, knowledge, and skills. The synergies are obvious to those of us who have worked together. CFI’s becoming part of NIMSP offers huge opportunities for advancing the field – well beyond anything we at CFI could have imagined if we continued trying to do it all on our own.

NIMSP has been promoting an accountable democracy for nearly two decades by compiling and standardizing comprehensive campaign-donor, lobbyist, and other information from all fifty states and the federal government. CFI has also been at work for nearly two decades, earning a reputation as the nation’s preeminent think tank on money in politics.

Nesting CFI within NIMSP raises this collaboration to a new level. Each organization has done valuable work separately by using the differences among states to help understand the effects of federal, state, and local campaign laws. The expanded NIMSP will have the resources and skills not only to continue, but to look at more jurisdictions and more programs more deeply. It will bring new data and new research to produce new insights. The results will continue to inform scholars and journalists. It will also guide agencies, lawmakers, activists, and others to develop more effective policies. Our democracy will be the better for it.

Financials

The Campaign Finance Institute, a division of the National Institute on Money in State Politics
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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The Campaign Finance Institute, a division of the National Institute on Money in State Politics

Board of directors
as of 02/05/2019
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Anthony Corrado

Charles A. Dana Professor of Government at Colby College

Ross Clayton Mulford

Ruth Jones

Arizona State University

Phil Noble

PoliticsOnline

Donald Foley

Ketchum Communications

David Cohen

Experience Corps/Civic Ventures

F. Christopher Arterton

Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University

Anthony Corrado

Charles A. Dana Professor of Government at Colby College

Michael J. Malbin

Campaign Finance Institute and SUNY - Albany

Ron Michaelson

University of Illlinois

Vic Fazio

Akin-Gump

Betsey Bayless

Maricopa Integrated Health System

George B. Gould

Legislative Consultant

Kenneth A. Gross

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Ronda Bybee

No Affiliation