On Constitution Day, UP’s political science department discussed the role money plays in politics
By Hannah Kintner , Staff Writer Kintner13@up.edu
Voter registration,informative political discussion and a cake adorned with the American flag marked the 225th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution at the University of Portland on Monday.
The political science department hosted the second Vote UP event titled “The Constitution and the Election” in St. Mary’s lounge. Political science professors William Curtis and Gary Malechacollaborated to inform students about the issues and history of campaign finance reform, the political effort to change the role of money in politics.
Curtis spoke about the details of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, as well as the technicalities of campaign finance reform, the key issue of the case.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a controversial case in which the Supreme Court ruled that financial political contributions by corporations and unions were protected under free speech.
On a broader spectrum, Malecha discussed the impact of money in elections before and after Citizens United.
While hundreds of millions of dollars go into developing campaign advertisements, Malecha noted that these advertisements are aimed at a small percentage of the population. The advertisements have the ability to sway only the votes of those who have not already determined whether they will vote Republican or Democrat.
Campaign advertisements are meant to appeal to independent voters, but that portion of the population may be even smaller than you think.
“If you take a look at independents in the United States, about 40 percent [or] 35 percent of the population consider themselves to be independent, but that’s really a roguery,” Malecha said. “The fact of the matter is out of that percentage about nine to 11 percent are truly independents. Most independents tend to vote one way or another and I don’t believe they are capable of being swayed.”
Malecha said spending money on a campaign helps people feel personally involved in the campaign: When a person donates money to a specific candidate no matter how small the sum, they become more likely to vote when the election comes because they are financially invested.
About 20 students and community members attended the event including junior Sam Schelfhout, an economics and political science double major who attend the event because he is in classes taught by both Curtis and Malecha.
“I thought it was really interesting and it made me think outside the box about campaign finance reform,” Schelfhout said, “It was also really neat to hear my professors’ prospective on it.”
Senior Stephanie Fekete, who hopes to attend law school, also enjoyed the event.
“I thought it was very intellectually stimulating,” Fekete said. “I’ve just been wanting to go to all of the Vote UP events because I’m really adamant about being an informed voter.”