Taking Money Out of Politics: A Weighty Lift — Determine What Winning Looks Like

November 28, 2017

As we continue our series on Voqal’s recent strategic review of its philanthropic investments to address money in politics, we look at the final recommendation from the Taking Money Out of Politics: A Weighty Lift report. Looking for even more information on this issue? Be sure to check out last week’s post to learn more about the need for effective tools and benchmarks in the fight to get money out of politics.

Recommendation 6: Determine and map what “winning” looks like.

Voqal might more easily discern and demonstrate its impact if it were clearer on the concept of what “winning” means. Further research should be conducted on the relative merits and constraints of policy change options, as well as how to maximize the impact of Voqal’s (c)(4) funding power.

Beyond specific support leading up to and closing in on campaign “wins,” it is not easy to determine how to best leverage Voqal’s (c)(4) funding capacity with (c)(3) dollars funding complementary efforts. However, a policy reform “win” does not sit in isolation. There is an entire cast of characters trying to influence it at any given time, as well as a shifting social and political climate that is favorable, neutral or opposed (or a combination of all three) at all times. Furthermore, wins sit on a spectrum that begins with the emergence of a problem or inequity and solutions to fix it that require tactics including spreading knowledge, increasing awareness and engagement all the way to the voting booth or legislative chamber. And once the ballot box, legislative or rulemaking “event” is over, a long road lies ahead to protect and implement the reform measure.

There is an opportunity to examine this spectrum, and the strategy options posed along the journey, to map out the next iteration of a Money in Politics Strategy that reflects a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of victories. On the other hand, if Voqal only wants to focus on winning “events,” then it should plan accordingly and let others be responsible for all other points along the spectrum – and, as a good ally, communicate that plan to partners so others can adjust or confirm their own thinking and approach.

Further investigation into the difference between ballot initiatives and legislation as strategies for winning would also be helpful. Methods for accomplishing this could include:

  • Taking advantage of the resources offered by organizations like the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) to understand when and where this approach is most effective;
  • Determining if a cost-benefit analysis of the two different approaches exists or would be feasible;
  • And developing and understanding the implications of a ballot initiative versus a legislative initiative for protecting and implementing the policy change once “won” or passed.

Looking for a more extensive look at Voqal’s work to reduce the influence of money in politics? Download the Taking Money Out of Politics: A Weighty Lift and Balancing the Scales: The Fight for Our Democracy reports.