Michael J. Malbin

Michael J. Malbin

O’Leary Professor
Department of Political Science
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy
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282 Richardson Hall
Michael J. Malbin

Specialization: Legislative Process & Elections

Michael J. Malbin became an O’Leary Professor in 2021 after arriving at the University at Albany as a Professor of Political Science in 1990. Before that he had spent seventeen years in Washington D.C. as a reporter, think tank scholar and government appointee (in both the legislative and executive branches). His teaching has emphasized legislative politics and elections. He also established the College’s Semester in Washington program in 1997 and taught it through 2015. For this he was awarded both the Citizen of the University Award from the University’s Alumni Association and a Distinguished Service to the College Award from Rockefeller College.

One consistent thread to his research interests has been on the dynamics of institutional change and reform. To some extent, that interest grew serendipitously: he had the professional good luck to land in Washington, with new PhD in hand (Cornell, 1973), just as the Watergate hearings were being played out on Capitol Hill. As a result, his earlier publications focused on congressional reform, presidential nomination reform and congressional staffing – along with what became his abiding interest in the role of money in politics.

Between 1999 and 2020 he indulged this last interest as co-founder and director of The Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan research institution in Washington DC that in 2018 became a division of the National Institute on Money in Politics. Along with several books on money in politics, his recent work on federal, state (and occasional local) elections has included research on participation by small donors, political parties and interest groups, as well as the impact of money (and reforms affecting the role of money) on the performance of representative institutions. 

Malbin's positions in Washington during the years before Albany were as a reporter for National Journal, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, congressional staff member, and speechwriter to the Secretary of Defense. Since coming to Albany, he has concurrently been a presidential appointee to the National Humanities Council, guest scholar at The Brookings Institution, and a visiting Professor at Yale.