Carl Buell's "The Minnesota Legislature of 1915" was the fourth in a series of eight books that closely examined how the state legislature actually functioned in its 1909, 1911, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1919, 1921 and 1923 sessions. The authors of these books--Lynn Haines wrote the first two and Carl Buell the last six -- investigated and highlighted the influence of special interests, especially the liquor and mining concerns. Like other muckraking journalists of the Progressive Era they believed that if corrupt practices and the activities of special interests were exposed, "the people" would rise up and demand changes to the political system, leading to greater democracy. In the Preface to his 1915 exposé, Buell writes with some satisfaction about the effects of the public's reaction to the first three studies:
"This publicity has had its effect. Many extreme conservatives, reactionaries, and special interest men have been retired to private life, and more progressive and honest men sent in their places.
"There has been a great improvement in the direction of intelligence, honesty and independence. Steadily the people have been able to get more and the corporations and special interests less."
Buell concludes with a short profile of each Senator and Representative and his record of favoring or opposing major reform legislation. Here are a few of the guides he used when making these assessments:
"The true test of a man's honesty, independence and real democracy, comes when he is confronted with some new and unexpected question that goes to the root of our institutions.
"If he is a democrat he will line up right. If he is a plutocrat, an aristocrat or champion of privilege, he is pretty sure to get on the wrong side.
"I have not used the word 'progressive' in characterizing members. It has ceased to mean much."