July 2020

The Case for Political Philanthropy

Dysfunctional governance impacts every issue

  • Growing partisanship either leads to total gridlock or to massive swings on public policy, undermining issues philanthropists care about — including education, health care, and the environment.  

Our broken politics reflects a “systems problem”

  • Solving problems in the public interest is prevented by misaligned incentives between what it takes to govern and what it takes to get elected.
  • Partisan and special interests have gained disproportionate power. In the last midterm election, for example, every member of Congress who was defeated in a primary lost to a candidate who was more ideologically extreme.

“Political philanthropy” to fix politics has momentum & leverage

  • Political philanthropists seek to improve governance by investing in non-partisan reforms to (i) enact better incentives and (ii) elect better leaders.
  • In 2018, political philanthropists invested $154M to help elect over two-dozen reform candidates to Congress and pass 18 reform ballot initiatives — including ending partisan gerrymandering in five states.
  • Good governance has a high return on investment: government spends 20 times more money annually ($8T) than donations to every charitable cause combined.

Non-partisan political reform needs “big bets” to scale

  • New political philanthropy totaling at least $100M by 2022 — including “big bets” of $10M+ by individual philanthropists — can bring the reform movement to scale.
  • Over the next two years, this level of funding would help enact significant electoral reform in more than a dozen states and help elect more than two dozen new members of Congress — catalyzing a tipping point for a more representative and functional government.

Other research