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What We’re Reading

By Justin Anderson / 2013 May 17th

At the Democracy Fund, we work to keep up with the latest research, reports, and analyses to deepen our understanding of our democracy and what we can do to strengthen it. (If you are interested in news and updates from our grantees, please visit the News Page.)

  • FEC Summarizes Campaign Activity of the 2011-2012 Election Cycle (Federal Election Commission) April 19 – The FEC has released a summary of spending during the 2011-2012 election cycle with more that $7 billion being received by Presidential and Congressional candidates as well as political parties and PACs. Additionally, submissions to the FEC for the two-year period showed disbursements for independent expenditures and electioneering communications totaled almost $1.3 billion.
  • Political Polarization: In Congress or in Us? (Election Law Blog) April 24 – A new poll from the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center on the recent failure of gun legislation shows a wider view of the political polarization in the country over the last 20 years. The report provides surprising data about the views of those who have been watching the issue most closely. 48% of those watching the issue most closely were angry or disappointed that the measure failed while 47% were happy or relived, showing that the polarization in Congress more closely mirrors the views of those most active on the issue.
  • States Try to Tackle ‘Secret Money’ in Politics (LA Times) May 2 - Early last month, state lawyers and election officials around the country dialed into a conference call to talk about how to deal with the flood of secret money that played an unprecedented role in the 2012 election. The discussion, which included officials from California, New York, Alaska and Maine, was a first step toward a collaborative effort to force tax-exempt advocacy organizations and trade associations out of the shadows. The unusual initiative was driven by the lack of progress at the federal level in pushing those groups to disclose their contributors if they engage in campaigns, as candidates and political action committees are required to do.
  • The Politics Of The Millennial Generation (Time) May 9 - Earlier this month, the Institute of Politics at Harvard University released its biennial survey of millennials, finding that 18-29 year olds trust in every public institution is down from last year, with only the military holding an above-water rating. Cynicism and negativity toward public officials are up five points since 2010 and a near majority, 47 percent, agree with the statement “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing. (36 percent said they neither agree nor disagree.)
  • Excessive student loan debt drains economic engine (Politico) May 8 - Since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau highlighted a year ago that student debt had surpassed the $1 trillion threshold, others have warned about the impact on the broader economy. Last year, the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research described how student debt might impact demand for mortgage credit. The Federal Reserve Board’s open market committee discussed whether student debt is impacting household spending. And just a few weeks ago, the Financial Stability Oversight Council discussion of student debt in its annual report added to the chorus.

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