Democracy Matters Comes to Marist

Local Chapter of National Organization Prompts Discussion and Awareness

A new group on campus, “Democracy Matters,” has taken a notable step towards engaging and politicizing a number of Marist students. Democracy Matters is a larger national organization across different colleges and universities, devoted to getting big money out of politics. This semester, students Andrew Zink and Kristen Semple took it upon themselves to bring a chapter to Marist.

“After the election, I just was looking for some way to get involved,” said Zink, who then found this organization as an outlet for political action. “I realized that getting big money out of politics is really important if average people ever want to have a say in their own system.”

Last week, Democracy Matters drew 40 students to their first meeting for an initial discussion on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Students of all political backgrounds sat together in a large circle where they shared their varying ideas on the topic.

This conversation closely followed Trump’s recent budget proposal, which drastically cut funding to the EPA. Students took this opportunity to discuss the controversy and role of the agency; however, another essential focus of the night, and of the club as a whole, revolved around facilitating informative, encouraging conversation.

“I hope [members] learn that we can create an environment that cuts past all of the gridlock and all of the partisan ideology and get to a point where people can just sit down and talk about these issues,” said Zink of his goal for the organization.

The following week, a smaller group turned out for a second event – a talk with former state senator Terry Gipson. Among other topics, Gipson offered specific insight into the use of big money in his own race and in other New York State elections.

“This makes it really difficult for the average person to raise enough money to run for office,” said Gipson. He went on to explain that candidates need at least one million dollars for their campaigns to gain standing in a modern legislative race. In exceeding this goal, wealthy donors can contribute to a number of different avenues, thus avoiding the $11 thousand cap on individual contributions.

Ultimately, he advised that this issue can be corrected through the passage of laws that further limit campaign contributions. He also suggested a public financing system, which would only allow minor contributions and would then max out at a certain amount.

Leaders of Marist Democracy Matters intend to continue running in accordance with this Tuesday night schedule. They will hold open discussions at bi-weekly meetings and then, on off weeks, host speakers and other events. Next on the docket is a visit from former candidate for New York State Governor, Zephyr Teachout. According to Zink, Teachout will be joining the club sometime this April.

For the latest updates, the Marist Democracy Matters Facebook page can be found here.

Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18

This story originally appeared on The Marist Initiative

 

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