UR students have joined together in an effort to change the way people run for elected office. They are part of an organization that’s becoming more and more prominent on college campuses nationwide known as Democracy Matters.
Democracy Matters focuses mostly on the “clean money” part of campaign finance reform, which means that they work to make it so that political candidates cannot receive large donations from private individuals or corporations.
Instead, donations could go only to political parties. Currently, the idea behind clean money is that candidates voluntarily refuse to accept these monetary donations, choosing to accept only a set amount of money from an individual. The government then finances at least part of the candidate’s campaign. The amount depends on how much the candidate has raised on their own.
Rather than being indebted to corporations, “candidates are now responsible to their constituents,” president of UR Democracy Matters Erin Fraser said.
“While Arizona and Maine were the first two states to implement a clean money campaign, a clean money bill is going to be introduced to the New York legislature in the upcoming weeks, making the idea of clean money extremely relevant to New Yorkers and UR students,” Fraser added.
The upcoming campaign led Fraser and other UR members of Democracy Matters to recently attend the organization’s 2nd annual National Summit convention at SUNY Albany. At the conference, Democracy Matters founder and current president Adonal Foyle spoke, sharing his views on the political system and also his frustration at how, in America, people rarely exercise their right to vote or voice their opinions.
Foyle believes that one of the causes of this is the influence that money currently has in American politics.
Every year, NBA player Adonal Foyle donates some of his $6 million annual salary “to help students fight for progressive change by standing up to big money.”
Locally, the UR branch has several plans for the future. They’re working on collecting petitions to give to representatives in support of the clean money act that’s going to be introduced to the state legislature. “New York has no popular referendum, making these petitions especially important,” Fraser said.
Additionally, they are working with the Undergraduate Political Science Council to bring Louise Slaughter, Rochester’s Congresswoman, to campus to deliver a speech sometime soon.
They are also working on raising awareness about the clean money campaign both on campus and locally and are planning to give presentations in area high schools, emphasizing the need to vote.
“Fifty percent of voters voted in the last presidential election and 32 percent vote in other elections. Only 12 to 17 percent of college-aged people vote,” executive director of Democracy Matters and Colgate University professor Joan Mandle said to the CT in an October 2002 article.
At UR, the group is working to gain support from other groups for the campaign and are also working to find common links with other groups on campus.
“This is an opportunity for things to change dramatically,” Fraser said.Future plans include hosting speakers on campus and in the more immediate future, attending a New York state “lobby day” in the middle of next month. Held in Albany, N.Y., the event will offer Democracy Matters members a chance to speak with legislatures about the clean money campaign.
“This is exciting because we get to sit face to face [with our representatives] and show our support for the [clean money] campaign,” Fraser said.
For more information, visit www.democracymatters.org or contact Fraser at ef002k@mail.
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