Students to march to State House for campaign finance reform

This afternoon, students in the Brown chapter of Democracy Matters, a national student group concerned with campaign finance reform, will march from Sayles Hall to a press conference at the State House to support proposed legislation creating a publicly financed election fund.

They will join other supporters of “clean elections,” including State Sen. Rhoda Perry P’91, D-Dist. 3, and State Rep. Edith Ajello, D-Dist. 3, the General Assembly representatives who are sponsoring the bill. Perry and Ajello, who both represent Brown’s campus, will file the bill today.

Student leaders are hoping 50 Brown students will join the march to the State House, where about 20 Providence College students are expected to join them.

The legislation stipulates that a candidate who chooses to participate in the public financing of his election must collect a certain number of $5 contributions to prove interest in their candidacy and refuse to collect any further private donations in order to qualify for a grant from the election fund. If the candidate runs against a privately funded opponent, the public financing fund will match the money spent by the opponent above the initial grant, capping monetary support at three times the amount of the initial grant.

Organized with the help of Democracy Matters, the press conference is intended to show legislators that there is public interest in the bill, which has been introduced by Perry and Ajello for the past two years but has never left committee, said Jon Bogard ’09, a member of Democracy Matters.

“At the end of last year, having testified before the House and the Senate, we became aware of the fact that this wasn’t going to get anywhere unless legislators were delivered a strong public message,” Bogard said. In March and April 2006 he testified in the Senate and House to help legislators understand how publicly funded elections would work. The press conference was “cobbled together by our contacts and our brainstorming,” he said.

If passed, the legislation may inspire Brown students to lobby for similar laws in their home states, noted member Greg Anderson ’10.

The press conference will begin at the rotunda of the State House at 3 p.m.