We prove the complete monotonicity on $${(0, \infty)^{n}}$$ for suitable inverse powers of the spanning-tree polynomials of graphs and, more generally, of the basis generating polynomials of certain classes of matroids. This generalizes a result of Szegő and answers, among other things, a long-standing question of Lewy and Askey concerning the positivity of Taylor coefficients for certain rational functions. Our proofs are based on two ab-initio methods for proving that $${P^{-\beta}}$$ is completely monotone on a convex cone$C$: the determinantal method and the quadratic-form method. These methods are closely connected with harmonic analysis on Euclidean Jordan algebras (or equivalently on symmetric cones). We furthermore have a variety of constructions that, given such polynomials, can create other ones with the same property: among these are algebraic analogues of the matroid operations of deletion, contraction, direct sum, parallel connection, series connection and 2-sum. The complete monotonicity of $${P^{-\beta}}$$ for some $${\beta > 0}$$ can be viewed as a strong quantitative version of the half-plane property (Hurwitz stability) for$P$, and is also related to the Rayleigh property for matroids.