Panelists argued that money has a skewed role in the American political process at an event this past Friday evening hosted by Democracy Matters, a national student organization that advocates for campaign finance reform.
The panel featured former financial executive Morris Pearl, author Frances Moore Lappé, and Winthrop House administrator Renaldo M. Pearson in Sever Hall with an audience of approximately 30 students.
Max Stahl, the director of political engagement at Democracy Matters, said the organization’s goal is to reform public finance by working with public officials.
“[We have] a pledge called the 'Restore Democracy Pledge' that we asked all of the presidential candidates to sign,” he said. “The text of it is, ‘I support restoring democracy by publicly financing elections and getting big money out of politics.’"
All of the panelists emphasized the need for reform, stressing the idea that the average American is excluded from the political process because of the influence of money in politics.
“Our basic stance is that one of the problems with America today is that a tiny number of very rich people use their money to get political power and then use their political power to make themselves even richer,” Pearl said.
The panel comes during a general election campaign that has seen some debate about campaign finance reform and the role of money in the political system more generally. Pearl said reforming this system would involve a redistribution of political power.
“We’re not going to change the idea that people with money have influence but we’re going to give people with less money, more influence,” he said.
Pearson also identified campaign financing as the root of many other social issues in the U.S. today, arguing that campaign finance structures reward the wealthiest Americans at the cost of underrepresented minority groups.
“If we were to end mass incarceration or close the equality gap around economic inequality or whatever issue we’re talking about, we have to first deal with this core issue of campaign finance,” he said.
Audience member Erin Olivieri ’19 said the event reinforced the importance of campaign financing for her.“[Campaign finance reform] is so critical for us to be able to solve anything else,” she said. “Mobilizing students for campaign finance reform is something that’s going to be a challenge in the future, but something we need to address.”
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