What happened to ‘Yes, we can’?

Students need to push campaign finance reform into the public agenda.

Tyler Stierwalt

The exciting âÄúchangeâÄù that so many of us hoped for after the 2008 election has ground to a screeching halt, largely the fault of Congress, which has obstructed progress on such critical issues as addressing climate change, reforming the college student-loan process, really fixing the health care system, regulating the big banks and examining the ethical lapses of their own members. Why? The short answer is money: the campaign contributions given to politicians by representatives of energy companies, oil and gas corporations, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and others. Since 1990, the big banks, real estate and financial companies have contributed $2.2 billion to federal campaigns. And in only the last year, as Congress debated the need for new regulations, the industry gave $42 million more in campaign contributions. A recent USA Today editorial concludes, âÄúA wealth of evidence suggests that the way to get a defense contract is to hand over thousands of dollars to influential lawmakersâÄô campaigns.âÄù And to make matters even worse, the Supreme Court is soon expected to lift the 100-year-old ban on unlimited corporate contributions, unleashing a flood of additional special-interest money into the political system. The Democracy Matters chapter at the University of Minnesota is part of a national coalition fighting to get big money out of politics and people back in. We want young people to be able to run for office and for politicians to listen to voters, not bankers. The âÄúClean ElectionsâÄù public campaign financing laws in states like Connecticut, Arizona and North Carolina are important to this end. But students, we need to do more. We have always been at the forefront of important changes in our country, from civil rights and environmental protection to peace and womenâÄôs rights. We played a huge part in the 2008 election. Now we need to step up and raise our voices again. Because working together, âÄúYes, we can!âÄù Tyler Stierwalt University undergraduate student Democracy Matters