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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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An opportunity to change the rules

The move to clean elections is gaining momentum across the United States.

American citizens have professed much shock and anger at a bribery scandal discovered in our nation’s capitol. We Americans are rightly disgusted with the idea that a lobbyist would offer money and gifts to an elected official in exchange for support of legislation.

It is even more egregious to think our trusted politicians would accept such bribes. We must ask ourselves, however, are we surprised? In a system that allows well-heeled interests to contribute to campaigns virtually unrestricted, do we have the right to be shocked that lobbyists and representatives would buy and sell our laws?

The present scandals are nothing new. Anywhere there are big money interests at stake there are worried elected officials wondering where the contributions to the next campaign are going to come from. The trail is easy to follow from

prescription-drug legislation to airline-industry bailout to environmental protection. Money buys influence. Period. This is far from a cynical view of the system. Even well-meaning legislators need to fund their well-meaning campaigns. These are the rules politicians everywhere must play by.

Right now Minnesota citizens and lawmakers have the opportunity to change the rules. Fair and clean elections are on the horizon. The Fair and Clean Elections Act of Minnesota would institute a voluntary system of publicly-financed campaigns for state office. Candidates would qualify to run fair and clean by collecting a minimum number of signatures and small donations. When candidates become certified fair and clean, they no longer can contribute to their own campaigns and no longer can accept other contributions more than $50. Instead, all campaign money would come from the state.

What would the world be like without bribery in our political system? Citizens of Maine and Arizona already have found out. In their own words, their clean elections system has “lowered spending, reduced the influence of outside money, leveled the playing field, freed candidates’ time and encouraged more people to run.” Without campaign contributors to worry about, legislators have no one to worry about except the citizens.

The move to clean elections is gaining momentum across the nation. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, and North Carolina also have passed

clean election systems. The future of F.A.C.E in Minnesota depends on the legislators elected this fall. It will take the concerted effort of students and all citizens to elect ethical politicians who are willing to pull the plug on the life support of big money.

Here at the University, Democracy Matters is taking the lead on F.A.C.E. The student group is dedicating its time, resources and abilities to bring the people back into the political prcess. If you are fed up with big money interests controlling our democracy, help Democracy Matters and help Minnesota. Stand up to big money and elect legislators that support Fair and Clean Elections.

Joe Mullenbach is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].

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