February 2, 2007

Clean Elections Update  (Gary Zuckett and Fat Cat below)

Our Clean Elections lobby day this past Thursday was a terrific success! At least fifty people came to the Capitol to tell Senators and Delegates why Clean Elections is right for West Virginia, and why the time is NOW!

After breakfast and a briefing session at Temple Israel, the lobbying teams headed for the Capitol, where they were joined by other supporters for an exceptional press conference. Speakers were Gary Zuckett (CAG), Fr. Brian O’Donnell (Catholic Conference), Larry Matheney (AFL-CIO), Rev. Dennis Sparks (Council of Churches), Richie Robb (Mayor of South Charleston), Janet Keating (Citizens for Clean Elections), and Senator Vic Sprouse. Senator Sprouse made a wonderful statement about the skyrocketing costs of running for office, and made it clear that he would rather be able to talk more with his constituents. Clean Elections is an obvious answer to both difficulties! The press conference was featured on Beth Voorhees’ Legislative Update on WVPBS and also in the Friday morning segment on public radio.

The breadth and depth of our coalition is gaining attention, and lots of positive contacts with legislators were made. The Fat Cat gained the attention of citizens and employees in the Capitol – and even some of the legislators were brave enough to be seen talking with her!

THANK YOU to all the people who helped make the day such a great success, and especially to our gracious hosts at Temple Israel!

The bill (S118) was not taken up by Senate Judiciary on Thursday, but is likely to be considered this coming week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, February 6. Supporters who are in the area are encouraged to keep an eye on the schedule, as we would like to have a room full of people at the Judiciary Committee meeting. Please continue to contact Senators on the Judiciary Committee. Senators Oliverio and Minard could still use some gentle persuasion! When we successfully move the bill out of Judiciary, it will be time to focus on convincing Senator Walt Helmick to take the bill up in Finance Committee, and on Secretary of State Betty Ireland, to be sure her concerns are answered. The Council of Churches is seeking a meeting next week with Senator Tomblin to encourage him to support moving the bill.

Another possible source of funding has been identified: civil penalties imposed by the Licensing Board. There is apparently money in this fund that is supposed to be used, but is not presently designated. A coalition member has agreed to approach Treasurer John Perdue about these funds.

Below are some newly-revised talking points that Winnie Strzelecki of the Reform Institute shared with us. Remember, when you speak with or visit legislators, it is important not to mix issues, but to discuss only one issue per visit or call.

Clean Elections Talking Points:

  • Public campaign funding dramatically reduces the time candidates spend raising money, which allows candidates to focus on talking with voters.
  • Spending more time with voters makes elected officials better public servants because they understand what issues are important to their constituents.
  • Public campaign funding cuts out the financial arms race – dialing for dollars – that is unhealthy for our nation’s democracy because it silences the voice of the people.
  • Transparency is crucial to restoring public faith in the system.
  • Public campaign funding creates an opportunity for regular people to feel like their small-dollar contributions to candidates – who they believe in – can make a difference.
  • Citizens believe that their representatives should answer to the people who voted for them, rather than to those with the deepest pockets and are fed up with the idea that money can so easily buy influence in our political process.
  • West Virginia legislators have been pioneers in their efforts to regulate 527s. By supporting public campaign funding, the West Virginia legislature will carry on its efforts to limit the corrupting influence of money in elections and restore public faith in government and elected officials.
  • With the recent barrage of stories of scandal and corruption, now is the time to strengthen our state campaign finance laws.

Gary Zuckett and Fat Cat

Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246