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NVRI E-Update: June 2004
Notes from Stuart Comstock-Gay, Executive Director

Dear Friend,

In this issue:

  1. NVRI's battle to defend campaign spending limits moves to the college campus
  2. Defend clean elections in Arizona - Take Action Now
  3. Suppose we had a real Democracy?
  4. Hear Political Strategist Celinda Lake at July NVRI event

1.  NVRI's battle to defend campaign spending limits moves to the college campus

A student at the University of Montana has challenged a 35-year-old policy whereby candidates for student government must keep their spending within limits set by the student government. The current limit is $100. Student governments at universities around the country have similar rules. The practice assures that students of limited financial means have a fair chance to win election to student government. The limits also contribute to diversity in student government. For example, the Native American students at the University of Montana suffer a disproportionately large financial hardship, and have few financial resources to spare for campaigns. NVRI, together with the university's legal counsel, are defending the limits as a reasonable means of furthering the university's educational mission, and assuring equal opportunity regardless of wealth. A preliminary junction hearing is scheduled for June 11. NVRI managing attorney Brenda Wright and staff attorney Lisa Danetz are serving as co-counsel to the University in this case. The plaintiff is represented by James Bopp, who frequently files challenges to campaign finance reforms. To read the brief, click here.


2.  Defend clean elections in Arizona

Opponents of public financing have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to eviscerate one of America's most promising models of grassroots democracy: Arizona's pioneering campaign finance system called the Clean Elections Act. Under the Clean Elections Act, candidates take no big money from special interests whatsoever. Those who are able to give five dollars are as important in a candidate's eyes as those who used to give them $500: Clean Election candidates qualify for public money for their campaign by raising a large number of five dollar contributions. Under a similar law, 70% of candidates in Maine's primary elections this year are running under the public funding law - up from 50% in 2002, and 31% in 2000. Clearly, the law encourages more candidates. In Arizona, a strong team led by Public Campaign, is running a solid campaign. But with well-heeled developers, out-of-state insurance companies, and corporate lobbyists raising tons of money get rid of reform, the campaign needs your help to defend it. We urge you to join the effort to save the Arizona law, by giving at least five dollars to the Arizona campaign. If you want to do more, then check the box marked "Friend-Raiser" when you contribute. A "Friend-Raiser" sets a goal of finding 25 friends to give small contributions. The late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone once said that the "Clean Elections approach would strengthen American democracy by returning political power to the ballot box and by blocking special interests' ability to skew the system through large campaign contributions."

Don't let big moneyed special interests crush grassroots democracy. Please click here to make a secure online contribution today.


3.  Suppose we had a real Democracy?

In a January speech, Gara Lamarche of the Open Society Institute asked the simple but right question, "Suppose we Had a Real Democracy in the United States?" in which he urges all of us to get outside the box of our old thinking about U.S. democracy, and consider what it might be like if we addressed campaigns and voting, and the "even more fundamental measures of true citizenship and participation." The imbroglio in Iraq makes the question even more relevant. While LaMarche doesn't have the answers, the questions he asks should challenge all of us to think differently. In the words of Gandhi, "My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest shall have the same opportunities as the country in the world today show any but patronizing regard for the weak...true democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the center. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every village." Here's the piece by LaMarche:


4.  Hear Political Strategist Celinda Lake at July NVRI event

New England folks - Try to join us for our fundraising event with pollster and political strategist Celinda Lake on July 22. Lake is on of the most highly regarded political strategists and pollsters in the country today, and has a powerful analysis not just of poll numbers, but also of fundraising numbers in elections. The event will be held at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Boston just a few days before the Democratic convention. Tickets are $250, $100 and $50. For more information, contact Pamela Sheward ([email protected]), or 617-624-3900 x. 14, or click here. Invitations are being mailed shortly.


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Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
[email protected]

National Voting Rights Institute, 27 School Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 624-3900  ¤  Fax: (617) 624-3911  ¤  ¤  [email protected]