Money & Democracy
Associate Law Professor, Fordham University
President, American Constitution Society
Founder and President, Campaign Legal Center
Scholar and Author, "Democracy in Chains"
Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund
Deputy Director, Election Reform Program, Democracy
Founder & Former Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX)
Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
President and CEO, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Today, secret and unaccountable money influences American democracy. In fact, the authors of the U.S. Constitution saw corruption as a primary threat to the government they had created. Without attention to bribery, foreign interference, government power to enrich office holders, and elections built on wealth, democracy is in chains. However, there are remedies to restrain corruption, control lobbying, establish accountability and require transparency and how we fund elections.
Zephyr Teachout, Associate Law Professor, Fordham University
Zephyr Teachout is an Associate Law Professor and has taught at Fordham Law School since 2009. She grew up in Vermont and received her BA from Yale in English and then graduated summa cum laude from Duke Law School, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. She also received an MA in Political Science from Duke. She clerked for Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
She was a death penalty defense lawyer at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in North Carolina, and co-founded a non-profit dedicated to providing trial experience to new law school graduates. She is known for her pioneering work in internet organizing, and was the first national Director of the Sunlight Foundation.
She has written dozens of law review articles and essays and two books. Her book, “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United” was published by Harvard University Press in 2014.
She ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination of the Governor of New York in 2014, and for Congress’s 19th Congressional District in 2016.
Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society
Russ Feingold is the President of the American Constitution Society. He served as a United States Senator from Wisconsin from 1993 to 2011 and a Wisconsin State Senator from 1983 to 1993. From 2013 to 2015, he served as the United States Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
During his 18 years in the United States Senate, Russ was ranked 6th in the Senate for bipartisan voting. He is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and cosponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold Act), the only major piece of campaign finance reform legislation passed into law in decades. Russ was the only Senator to vote against the initial enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act during the first vote on the legislation and was well-known for his opposition to the Iraq War and as the Senate’s leading opponent of the death penalty. He served on the Judiciary, Foreign Relations, Budget, and Intelligence Committees. Russ was Chairman or Ranking Member of the Constitution Subcommittee.
For the better part of the last 10 years and in addition to his congressional and diplomatic career, Russ has taught extensively at various American law schools including Stanford Law School (where he is currently teaching), Yale Law School, Marquette University Law School, and Harvard Law School. In this capacity, he has played a significant mentoring role to law students, preparing him for his role as President of the American Constitution Society. He has also taught foreign policy to graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Yale University, Lawrence University, and American University.
Russ is the Honorary Ambassador for the Campaign for Nature which is a global effort calling on policymakers to commit to address the growing biodiversity crisis. The Campaign seeks a science-driven, ambitious new deal for nature at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, in 2021.
He is the author of While America Sleeps: A Wake-Up Call for the Post-9/11 Era and contributes regularly to various publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. He appears frequently on MSNBC and CNN. Russ holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, all degrees awarded with honors.
Trevor Potter, Founder and President, Campaign Legal Center
Trevor Potter is the founder and President of Campaign Legal Center.
The American Bar Association Journal has described Potter as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.” A Republican, he was appointed to the FEC in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. A nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, Potter is the author of several books and manuals on lobbying regulation and disclosure, campaign finance, and federal election law. He has testified before Congress on federal election proposals and campaign finance regulation, and has taught campaign finance law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Oxford University. He has served as Chair of several American Bar Association election law and lobbying regulation committees and task forces, and is currently a member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Election Law as well as the American Law Institute.
In recent years, Potter has led CLC as it has grown to meet significant challenges to our democracy. In October 2017, lawyers for CLC argued Gill v. Whitford, the groundbreaking Supreme Court case seeking to end extreme partisan gerrymandering. CLC plays a leading watchdog role on ethics issues, providing expert analysis and helping journalists uncover ethical violations, and participates in legal proceedings across the country to defend the right to vote and improve the disclosure and regulation of campaign finance.
Potter has recently appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, on CBS’s morning news show Face the Nation, on NBC’s Nightly News, and in the films Dark Money (2018) and The King (2017). His writing has been featured in publications such as The Washington Post and The Hill.
Nancy MacLean, Scholar and Author, "Democracy in Chains"
Nancy MacLean is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.” http://bit.ly/2oJklds. A finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction, it won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Current Interest, the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award, and the Lillian Smith Book Award.
MacLean is the author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994. Her articles and review essays have appeared in American Quarterly, The Boston Review, Feminist Studies, Gender & History, In These Times, International Labor and Working Class History, Labor, Labor History, Journal of American History, Journal of Women’s History, Law and History Review, The Nation, the OAH Magazine of History, and many edited collections.
Professor MacLean’s scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards and been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation. In 2010, she was elected a fellow of the Society of American Historians, which recognizes literary distinction in the writing of history and biography. Also an award-winning teacher and committed graduate student mentor, she offers courses on twentieth-century America, social movements, and public policy history.
Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund
Ellen Dorsey is Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund, a private foundation focused on progressive social change in the fields of environment, democracy, human rights and corporate accountability. Under her leadership, the Fund is recognized for creative philanthropic strategies and mission-related investing. This alignment of programs and investments led the foundation to support the fossil fuel divestment movement since its inception and to launch a new global campaign, Shine, to end energy poverty. Dorsey was awarded the 2016 inaugural Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Brave Philanthropy Award for launching Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of over 170 foundations committed to deploying their investments to address the climate crisis and accelerate the clean energy transition.
Dr. Dorsey came to Wallace Global Fund from a series of academic, philanthropic and non-profit leadership positions in the human rights and environmental fields, including serving as Executive Director at the Rachel Carson Institute, launching the Human Rights and Environment program at Amnesty International, and serving as senior program officer in the Heinz Endowment’s Environment Program.
Additionally, she has served on the board of numerous non-profit organizations promoting human rights and sustainable development, including Greenpeace USA, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United States Human Rights Network, and chair of the board of Amnesty International USA.
Dorsey holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a Fulbright Research Fellow in South Africa during that country’s historic transformation. She served on the faculty of several Universities, teaching human rights and environmental sustainability. She has written extensively on effective strategies of non-governmental organizations and social movements. Dorsey is co-author, with Paul J. Nelson, of New Rights Advocacy: Changing Strategies of Development and Human Rights NGOs, Georgetown University Press, 2008.
Chisun Lee, Deputy Director, Election Reform Program, Democracy
Chisun Lee is Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program, where she works to advance money-in-politics reform and improve election administration. She leads strategy and research for policy initiatives, legislative campaigns, publications, litigation, and public advocacy.
Lee has authored or co-authored nationally recognized reports and legal scholarship, and is a popular-book contributor. She writes and comments for outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR. She has provided testimony, briefings, and policy advice to federal, state, and local lawmakers across the country and taught as an adjunct professor at NYU School of Law.
Before her current work at the Brennan Center, Lee represented indigent criminal defendants in federal court. Previously she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Gerard E. Lynch in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Lee also worked in journalism and government. She covered legal issues and won numerous honors as a staff reporter for ProPublica and previously the Village Voice. Prior to becoming a journalist, Lee was press secretary to a citywide elected official in New York City. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a degree in history.
Nick Rathod, Founder & Former Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX)
Nick Rathod has spent his career working in state and local politics, successfully building institutions and winning electoral and policy campaigns for twenty years. Nick most immediately was the founder and Executive Director of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), which was created and designed to build progressive power in state legislatures around the country. During his time at SiX Nick merged several similar organizations together, grew SiX from an idea to a multimillion dollar enterprise with more than 30 staff and significantly impacted progressive state policy making and established a pipeline of training for elected officials in states across the country.
Prior to SiX, Nick served as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama-Biden Transition Team. In these roles, Nick served as President Obama’s liaison to states and U.S. territories, handling political and policy engagement as it relates to the states. Nick also worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren to help build and establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and later served as the Bureau’s Assistant Director in charge of Intergovernmental and International Affairs. Nick has also served as a Senior Advisor to former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senior Manager of State and Regional Affairs at the Center for American Progress, and Director of State Campaigns for Mayor Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. A lawyer by training, Nick has also worked as a civil rights attorney and community organizer, with a focus on language access, housing discrimination, and immigrant rights issues. He is a founding member and former Chairman of the Board of Directors of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering the South Asian community.
Nick currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three children. He is active in the state building progressive infrastructure like the donor table, sits on a number of non-profit boards and runs a consulting practice.
Crystal Hayling, Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
Crystal Hayling is the Executive Director of The Libra Foundation, based in San Francisco, funding organizations working to advance human rights and racial, economic, and social justice. Crystal (she/her) brings to The Libra Foundation a wealth of domestic and international experience across a broad spectrum of equity-focused issues. For six years, Crystal lived in Singapore where she built bridges between civil society and emerging donors in Southeast Asia to address income inequality and climate change. As managing director of the Aspen Institute’s Environmental Fellowship, Crystal designed a global leadership program focused on the food system’s impact on the environment.
Feeding her interest in equitable health care, Crystal was CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation where she spearheaded work to achieve universal health coverage. She was also part of the founding team at The California Wellness Foundation where she led a groundbreaking initiative to shift youth violence prevention from a criminal justice issue to a public health effort.
She has served on the boards of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Northern California Grantmakers, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, and Grantmakers in Health. Most recently Crystal was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. She has also lived and worked in China and Mexico.
Born and raised in Florida, Crystal is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. She and her husband live in the Bay Area with their two teenage sons.
Stephen Heintz, President and CEO, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Stephen B. Heintz is president and CEO of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a family foundation with an endowment of approximately $1.2 billion that advances social change for a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. Heintz coined the term “acupuncture philanthropy” to describe his philanthropic approach of leveraging modest financial assets to trigger larger systemic change on critical issues. In 2010, he set an ambitious path to align investment of the Fund’s financial assets with its mission, resulting in its 2014 decision to divest from fossil fuels and establishing the RBF as a leader in the Divest-Invest movement.
Heintz, who began his professional life in public service for the state of Connecticut, has devoted his career to strengthening democratic culture and institutions to better serve citizens. Before joining the RBF in 2001, Heintz co-founded and served as president of Dēmos, a public policy organization that works to reduce political and economic inequality and to broaden citizen engagement in American democracy. In 2018, he was named by the Academy of Arts and Sciences as one of three co-chairs of a national Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship in the 21st Century. The Commission plans to release a report and recommendations in early 2020.
On the international stage, Heintz served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the EastWest Institute during the 1990s. Based in Prague, he helped propel civil society development, economic reform, and international security as the bedrock of Central and Eastern Europe’s burgeoning democracies. In 2002, he led the RBF’s joint initiative with the UN Association of the USA to open a Track II dialogue that helped lay the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran Project, which he co-founded, keeps alive the possibility of a peaceful relationship with Iran despite the U.S. withdrawal from this historic agreement. In 2007, Heintz convened a meeting of the Kosovo Unity Team and prominent global diplomatic figures at the Fund’s Pocantico Center, resulting in the Pocantico Declaration that set a path for the Kosovo independence process.
Heintz is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. He serves on the boards of the Quincy Institute, the David Rockefeller Fund, and the Rockefeller Archive Center. He is the recipient of the Council on Foundations 2018 Distinguished Service Award.