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Money in Politics Expert Trevor Potter Delivers Fall Convocation

Posted by: wichmannkm | November 2, 2016 | No Comment |
Trevor Potter

Trevor Potter

The Political Science Department hosted Trevor Potter as their annual Convocation of Majors speaker on Tuesday, November 1. Potter is the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and is one of the top campaign finance lawyers in the country. Notably, he has appeared numerous times on The Colbert Report, helping Stephen Colbert set up a Super PAC. His talk focused on campaign finance and the role of money in American politics.

Potter noted that even in our extremely polarized political environment, most Americans, and even the 2016 presidential candidates, agree that the campaign finance system needs fundamental change. Americans believe that the current system is corrupt, and that our government is now being run by a few big interest groups and is disproportionately influenced by the wealthy. Only 1/4 of 1% of all Americans give the minimum of $250 to candidates, the amount required to appear in an FEC database. He argued that this issue is critical to address because a democracy depends on citizens having equal opportunity to influence election outcomes.

He also pointed out that only 29% of Americans in the 1960s thought that there was a problem with money in politics, noting that the current problems are relatively new in American political history. In addition, he talked about the trend where presidential candidates are no longer opting to participate in the public funding system where they receive federal funds to pay for campaign expenses. They are now participating in personal fundraising, primarily through super PACs. Mr. Potter also talked about how much time members of Congress spend fundraising.  He said that members of the U.S. House spend an average of four hours per day on the phone soliciting money for their campaigns. Not only are politicians spending less time during the day governing, there are also no legal measures to track some donations and spending.

When asked what his potential solutions were for solving America’s money in politics dilemma, Potter suggested implementing stipulations that do not allow Congress to fundraise during office hours. Additionally, there should be laws that make it mandatory for politicians to track “dark money” donations to 501(c)(4) organizations. Potter is also a proponent of having politicians participate in the public funding system as opposed to personal fundraising. He cited the innovative “democracy voucher” program in Seattle, where the government will send each registered voter four $25 vouchers that they can give to local candidates of their choice.

According to Political Science Professor, and Convocation organizer, Jordan Ragusa, “It is important to expose students to leading public figures and allow them to ask questions in a public forum.  I was extremely happy with how many students attended and asked thoughtful questions of Mr. Potter.”

under: Events, Faculty, Student

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