American Democracy Project at RIC Tackled Campaign Finance Reform



With experts predicting that political candidates will spend up to $5 billion in the upcoming presidential campaign, the American Democracy Project (ADP) asked the question "Is there a future for campaign finance reform?" in its latest public program, "The Best Government Money Can Buy,” held on Thursday, Oct. 8, in Alger 110. 

After a keynote speech by Colby College Professor of Government and author Anthony Corrado, Rhode Island Public Radio’s political commentator Scott Mackay moderated a panel discussion. Corrado and four other experts debated the implications of the American political system’s growing dependence on funds raised through SuperPACs, corporations and other potentially biased sources. 
 
“Money – who can provide it, who needs it and who gets it – is changing the rules of the game,” said Kay Israel, associate professor of communication and associate director of the ADP at RIC. 
 
Israel said that a “typical member of Congress spends between 25 and 50 percent of his or her day fundraising for a campaign war chest,” which raises the question: How are these funds changing and influencing American government? 
 
RIC Associate Professor of Communication Valerie Endress, director of the ADP at RIC, said the panelists provided varying perspectives to help answer this question and others related to the topic. “Some of the panelists advocated that Citizen’s United [current law on campaign spending] remain intact, while others argued that the law needs to be overturned,” Endress said.
 
The five panelists were:
  • Anthony Corrado, Colby College professor of government and author.  
  • Josh Israel, senior investigative reporter for Think Progress.
  • John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island.
  • Mike Stenhouse, chief executive officer of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.
  • John Walsh, principal of Walsh Strategies, former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and 2006 campaign manager for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Endress said that when it comes to the American political process, students oftentimes do not know how to enter the conversation. “One of the goals of the ADP at RIC is to provide the building blocks for political engagement,” she said. 
 
The American Democracy Project (ADP) began in 2003 as an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), in partnership with The New York Times. Its goal is to produce graduates who are committed to being active, involved citizens in their communities. RIC is the only college in the state to participate in the ADP and is considered one of the leading programs in the country for political and civic engagement, often used as the model for initiatives by other colleges. More than 220 colleges and universities throughout the country participate in the ADP.