Clean Money and Elections for Democracy

Colgate’s Democracy Matters gathered with members from schools across New York to lobby legislators to support the Ortiz Paterson Clean Elections Clean Money Bill.

The Ortiz Paterson Clean Elections Clean Money Bill calls for a volunteer public financing system for New York elections. Students gathered to protest outside of the capitol building and then met with individual legislators.

Under the Ortiz Paterson Clean Elections Clean Money Bill, candidates who wish to participate must secure enough small contributions of five dollars per sponsor. Those who gain enough support will qualify for public financing. The total money given to these candidates will be the average money spent in the last two election cycles. As a built-in precaution, the money is not to total more than one-tenth of one percent of total state expenditures.

In exchange for this money, the candidates will be responsible for participating in primary and general election debates.

This relatively menial amount of money could open the doors to new candidates who previously did not have the money to compete. Moreover, clean elections will limit the weighty influence of big donors and corporations.

“Clean elections allow candidates to spend more time talking with constituents and less time fundraising,” Democracy Matters Colgate Campus Coordinator senior Brandy Bones said.

Prior to Lobby Day, members of Colgate’s chapter of Democracy Matters collected 485 signatures for their petition in support of the bill. The petition states, “this system has created more accountable governments and encouraged more and increasingly diverse candidates to run for office. Public financing has limited the spiraling costs of election campaigns and restored voters’ faith in the electoral system.”

The petition implores legislators to pass the bill and support campaign finance reform. Colgate members collected 485 signatures, which they combined with petitions from Cornell University, Vassar University, St. Lawrence College and various other schools to achieve over 1,000 total signatures. The signatures were presented at a protest on the stairs of the capital building.

Throughout the day, the Democracy Matters students from many of the New York chapters divided into groups of three and four students and met with legislators to discuss the bill. In total, Democracy Matters members had 43 appointments with members of the legislature. Of these appointments, only two were already sponsors.

“The day was very successful,” Bones said, “We lobbied and got at least three new sponsors for the bill.”

Members of Democracy Matters plan on following up with other interested members of the legislature.

Democracy Matters was founded at Colgate University by alumnus Adonal Foyle as a non-partisan organization in support of campaign finance reform. Today, Democracy Matters has chapters on college campuses and in high schools throughout the United States. Bones and senior Kate Rufe, Colgate’s Democracy Matters campus coordinators, have actively sought to educate students and faculty about the importance of Campaign Finance Reform and political action.

Democracy Matters members gave every incoming forst-year absentee ballot forms to encourage political participation. This year, Democracy Matters also organized and sponsored a Professor Debate series, as well as a high school outreach program with seniors at Hamilton Central.

Members also participated in the Democracy Matters Summit in Albany, New York with Adonal Foyle and other active students from around the country. At the Presidents’ Club meeting on Wednesday, Democracy Matters received the MVP group of the year award.