April 18, 2002

'Democracy Matters' Holds Finance Reform Forum

Print More

Democracy Matters staged a debate in Uris Auditorium yesterday. The issue at hand was “Campaign Finance Reform: Where do we go from here?”

The featured speakers at the debate were John Moyers, editor and publisher of TomPaine.com, speaking in favor of campaign finance reform, and John Samples, director of Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government.

Prof. Theodore Lowi, government, acted as the moderator of the debate, posing questions from the audience to the speakers.


The Debate was sponsored in part by the Democracy Matters group, Cornell Democrats, College Republicans and by the government department among others.

More than 150 spectators came to the debate on ‘clean’ money in politics.

“I think is was an excellent opportunity for people on all sides of the issue to hear all the arguments and respond by both questioning and reaffirming their own convictions,” said Dan Gennaoui ’04.


“We had the opportunity to see two individuals who proved themselves not only to be stimulating and provocative, but also entertaining,” he added.

The debate itself focused on many different aspects of the campaign finance reform issue.

“We pay a lot of [tax] money to paint yellow lines on the road. Why should we not fund the things at the very heart of this country — public elections,” Moyers said.

“I work within the system to change it. Some of your tax dollars will go to support candidates you don’t like, but guess what — it will also go toward the candidates you may like but would never have seen on the platform.”

He then appealed to the audience. “If you want to run, you would have zero chance. The first question you would be asked would be, ‘can you raise $100,000?'”

“Has anyone here given $1000 towards a candidate?” he asked.

Devil’s Advocate

Lowi responded, playing devil’s advocate: “I gave $1000 to Ralph Nader,” as a wave of laughter spread through the audience.

John Samples took a different stance on the issue.

“It is unconstitutional to increase one’s speech and decrease someone else’s,” he said.

“[If] the rich own politics … then how come a billion dollars was recently spent on medicare?” he asked.

When asked about the civility of the debate one student responded:

“A great professor once told me, when law is on your side quote law, when precedent is on your side quote precedent, and when neither is on your side bang on the table. …

These two men each brought plenty of law and precedent to the campaign finance argument,” said Claudio Gualtieri ’03.


The debate concluded with the featured speakers giving two-minute summaries of their take on the issue.

“Someone is going to own our politics, but who should it be? If someone will own it, it might as well be [all Americans],” Moyers said.

The debate was followed by a reception at Sigma Phi fraternity, where students and the speakers got a chance to speak to each other in a more intimate setting.

“What struck me most,” Samples said, “was that more people showed up for this event than would have in Washington. Tells you something about the political interest of Cornell students.”

Archived article by Veronika Belenkaya