News Release

With National Spotlight on the Senate, Campaign Finance Is a Simmering Issue

With all eyes now on the Senate, advocates of campaign finance reform are pointing to the vast amounts of money that were required for the 100 senators to win their seats. Among those analysts available for interviews are:

GWEN PATTON
Archivist of the Montgomery Pioneer Voting Rights Activists at Trenholm State Technical College in Alabama, Patton said: “Getting money out of politics is the unfinished business of the voting rights struggle. The money barrier is a device to keep poor and black people from running. That in my opinion is the main obstacle today. We must have a fair, level playing field so that people from the grassroots can have active participation in the political process. The voting rights struggle was not one simply of passive participation by voting — it included in its intent, for those who were locked out, to have an opportunity for active participation. One of the foremost tenets in the 1965 Voting Rights Act was to remove all the barriers so that grassroots people themselves can run for public office.”
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DAVID DONNELLY
“As the Senate trial of President Clinton begins, voter faith in elected officials is at an all-time low,” says Donnelly, campaign manager for Mass Voters for Clean Elections, a group behind the statewide Massachusetts ballot measure for campaign finance reform that won by a wide margin last November. “Voters are turned off and tuned out by a political system that is more about donors and dollars than about voters and volunteers,” Donnelly adds. “U.S. senators increasingly are elected because they are the best fundraisers. Is this the most important qualification for sitting in judgment on key issues of the day, including impeachment?”

JOHN BONIFAZ
“The Senate is an example of a plutocracy, not a democracy,” comments Bonifaz, executive director of the National Voting Rights Institute. “The Senate is clearly comprised of some of the most well-connected politicians in the country; it’s largely a millionaire’s club. Less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. population are millionaires, while over a third of the Senate is. The average cost of a winning campaign in the U.S. Senate race is $4.6 million — the total is nearly half a billion dollars. The vast majority of senators are the winners in the wealth primary.” Bonifaz added: “The characteristics of today’s Senate demonstrate the necessity for public financing so that all candidates, regardless of their access to wealth, are able to participate on an equal and meaningful basis in the political process.”

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167