Bi-College News (Bryn Mawr College)
October 23, 2010
By Amanda Kennedy
With Election Day just a week away, the Bryn Mawr student organization Democracy Matters wants to bring attention to the way elections and political campaigns work.
On Friday, members of Democracy Matters set up a table in the Campus Center to ask students to sign a petition addressed to Congressman Jim Gerlach. The petition asks that Gerlach help pass the Fair Elections Now Act, a bipartisan bill currently on the House floor that would initiate a public finance option for congressional candidates. That way, candidates would not have to turn to big interests with a lot of money – and therefore, a lot of influence – for campaign funds, said Democracy Matters President Susan Gao ’13. Instead, small contributions would be raised through their communities.
Big oil companies provide a lot of money to politicians, Gao said, which contributed to the disaster of the recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast earlier this year.
"Oil comapnies like BP were loosely regulated," said Gao.
Gao and and members of Democracy Matters wanted to raise awareness about the extensive influence that oil companies have on politics.
Gao started a Democracy Matters chapter on campus this year after interning this past summer with Common Cause, the parent organization of Democracy Matters. Both Common Cause and Democracy Matters push for clean elections and try to answer the question of “how to take [private] money out of politics,” Gao said. Students on college campuses across the country make up Democracy Matters chapters.
“I know that Bryn Mawr is not very politically active, so I want to, through Democracy Matters, help our campus [become] more politically aware, or to at least instigate these conversations,” she said. “Because it was my internship, I did a lot of campaigning, and I just became really passionate about it, and I wanted to bring it to campus.”
Democracy Matters members enticed those walking by with information about the bill, as well as with colorfully decorated cookies that members baked together on Wednesday. They collected 80 signatures for their petition, which Gao said will be taken to Gerlach “soon, hopefully next week."
“Once you start telling people what this petition is, people were very willing to sign onto it, which is why we got 80 signatures in two hours,” she said.
The event was supposed to coincide with the International Climate Day on Oct. 10, a day of awareness for global climate crisis due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, global warming, and other phenomena. The date fell over fall break, though, so Democracy Matters decided to hold their event on Friday, less than two weeks before Election Day.
Members plan to become poll trained and facilitate at a polling site in Villanova on Election Day. Gao hopes to have a panel of professors and political activists discuss election results pertaining to money and politics sometime this school year.