On Sunday, November 15, Colgate students launched a letter writing campaign in an effort to encourage the passage of the Fair Elections Now Act and promote campus political participation.
Any student strolling through Case Library could find notices and fliers advertising the Sunday evening event, which took place in the Batza meeting room.
The letter writing campaign was staffed by members of Democracy Matters, who enthusiastically greeted entering students and directed them towards tables of letters and pizza. Attendees signed pre-typed letters supporting the Fair Elections Now Act, and Democracy Matters took on the responsibility of amassing and mailing the letters collected throughout the night to local Congressional representatives.
“It’s not about what political party you belong to,” senior and Democracy Matters co-President Sarah Finn explained. “Our club supports political reform, and campaign finance reform gets people active.”
Finn continued to emphasize that the Democracy Matters club is about political activism and not partisan politics, and that the bill they are advocating is a bipartisan reform that addresses an issue equally felt in every political party in the United States.
The Fair Elections Now Act was introduced in the Senate by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), and in the House of Representatives by John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) as a means of re-hauling fundraising methods for Congressional elections. Currently, candidates primarily rely on donations from political action committees, private organizations and their own personal finances to support their campaigns. As a result, a considerable percentage of the American population feels that officeholders are more loyal to their financers than they are to the American people. Also, critics have pointed out that the current system limits the potential pool of Congressional candidates because those without personal wealth or important business connections cannot realistically afford to campaign for office.
If passed, the Fair Elections Now Act aims to reform campaign finance by reducing the significance of private donations. Congressional candidates would have the option of applying for public funding by collecting a large number of private donations under $100 each. A candidate would gather a minimum amount of money from a minimum number of donations, determined by population of the district(s) they would be representing. If a candidate can meet these requirements, thereby displaying enough popularity to be a viable political contender, they would qualify for Fair Elections funding for their primary campaign, and, if they win, the general election as well.
“Voters and politicians alike are tired of money in politics,” urged the letters written by Democracy Matters. “Voters are becoming increasingly cynical about their government because they feel decisions are made and laws are passed that benefit large campaign contributors at the expense of ordinary Americans. Politicians are tired of money in politics because of the incessant need to raise money for their campaigns takes them away from focusing their time on doing the work of the people.”
Students who attended the letter writing campaign were pleased with the friendly reception provided by the members of Democracy Matters and were glad to petition in favor of the bill.
“This thing is still in its infant stages and we have a system in place that is not easily changed,” senior Evan Burman said. “But I would like to be proven wrong in that.”