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2000 Action of Immediate Witness

Scope: US

The health and integrity of the American democracy at the national, state, and local levels depends, in large measure, on fair and open elections that command public confidence and encourage full citizen participation.

Currently, the costs of campaigns for public office and the system of financing these campaigns give disproportionate influence to wealthy individuals and narrowly focused interest groups. Average citizens are so disadvantaged in this process that the resulting cynicism and alienation have led to severely diminished levels of voter participation and confidence in governmental institutions.

Unless the current system for financing political campaigns is significantly reformed, the future of American democracy is in severe jeopardy. Access to political power will increasingly be concentrated in the hands of fewer people, and government will lose the support of the majority of its citizens.

The more that access to elected officials is linked to wealth, the greater the likelihood that the civil rights of the poor and minorities will be eroded. Without major campaign finance reforms (i.e., clean money reforms that provide public financing of elections), the prospects for future public policies that support social and economic justice are extremely limited.

Four states (Arizona, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts) have already passed campaign finance reform laws that provide for voluntary public financing of state and local elections. Immediate support is needed to pass similar laws that will be on the ballots this fall in Oregon and Missouri. This state-by-state strategy may be the single best hope for stimulating meaningful change at both the state and federal levels.

At the federal level little progress has been made to date. However, two bills entitled "Clean Money, Clean Elections" are being sponsored in the United States Senate by Senators Paul Wellstone and John Kerry and in the United States House of Representatives by Congressman John Tierney. These bills would, among other things, provide for voluntary public financing of national election campaigns much like the provisions of the state laws.

Because the use of the democratic process is a cherished fundamental of Unitarian Universalism, the 2000 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges

  1. individual Unitarian Universalists in the United States to inform their representatives and senators of their strong support for the "Clean Money, Clean Elections" bills (S. 982 in the Senate and H.R. 1739 in the House);
  2. individual Unitarian Universalists in Oregon and Missouri to support voluntary financing of state and local elections and individuals in other states to promote similar reforms;
  3. the Unitarian Universalist Washington Office for Faith in Action to support and encourage those working for clean money campaign finance reform at both the state and federal levels and, in particular, to seek free television and radio time for candidates on the ballot; and
  4. Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States to encourage, support, and facilitate such actions by their individual members.

For more information contact socialjustice@uua.org.

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