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Jeffrey Milyo

Dirty Secrets: The Real Truth about Money in American Politics

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014 – 7 p.m.

Economics Professor Jeffrey Milyo

Reynolds Alumni Center Ballroom
Reception to follow in the Great Room

The eleventh annual 21st Century Corps of Discovery Lecture at the University of Missouri features Jeffrey Milyo, a professor of economics in the College of Arts and Science and the Middlebush Chair for Social Science, 2008-13.

Recognized as a national expert on campaign finance policy, Milyo will discuss the role of money in the political system and its influence on political corruption, public policy and voter engagement.

“Money in American politics is a perennial concern, but the issue has been thrust to the forefront of public debate given recent popular proposals to amend the Constitution for the purpose of allowing additional restrictions on the financing of political speech and association,” Milyo says.

Milyo’s research has transformed the study of campaign finance reform and our understanding of the effects of reforms on politics. His studies have shown that campaign spending is less influential in American politics than typically presumed. For instance, Milyo has found that there is little electoral advantage to incumbent spending and campaign war chests. Further, he finds little scientific evidence that campaign contributions actually influence the content of public policy. His recent research demonstrates that state campaign finance reforms have no impact on the incidence of political corruption or citizens’ trust and confidence in government.

“It is both fascinating and frustrating to see how ill-informed policymakers are regarding the efficacy of campaign finance reform,” Milyo says. “For decades, successive reform efforts have been touted as the panacea for whatever Americans find repugnant about politics, but each attempt has been found wanting. At some point, you have to rethink what the causes are of popular discontent with politics.”

Milyo has provided expert testimony to Congress and has served as an expert witness in state and federal election disputes, including cases in Colorado, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas and Washington, D.C. He is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. and an academic adviser to the Center for Competitive Politics in Alexandria, Va. Milyo has been a non-residential fellow in the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a national fellow in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University; he has also been a visiting scholar at MIT, Stanford University, Washington University and Yale University.

“Milyo is an undisputed authority on the topic of campaign finance,” says Emek Basker, associate professor of economics at MU. “He is a versatile social scientist who stands apart for his sustained creativity and high-quality research output, national and international visibility, engagement in policy as well as more abstract academic discourse and breadth of contributions.”

One of Milyo’s strengths as a scholar is his ability to work across academic boundaries. His research has been published in more than 30 top peer-reviewed journals in distinct academic disciplines, including economics, law, political science, public health and public policy. Milyo’s research is often cited in the popular press, and he has made several appearances on popular radio and TV programs, including the ABC news show 20/20.

“We often talk about interdisciplinary scholarship and the importance of working across boundaries, but Milyo has actually done it, remarkably well,” says Michael Munger, professor and former chair of Duke University’s political science department.

Milyo began his career twenty years ago as an assistant professor at Tufts University. He later moved to the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago where he taught for four years before joining the Mizzou faculty in 2004.

Milyo earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics at the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in economics with a minor in business at Stanford University.

The annual 21st Century Corps of Discovery Lecture features an outstanding MU faculty member to commemorate the contributions of the Lewis and Clark expedition and to inspire and unite the university community. Reinforcing “discovery,” one of the university’s core values, the lecture is intended to represent MU’s diverse academics in science, art, humanities, law, medicine, engineering, education, journalism and business.