During my days at Boston University, I was introduced to the concept of citizen-funded elections (aka, “Clean Elections”), which minimizes the corrupting power of money in elections. In 1998 Massachusetts reformers waged an epic battle to put a clean elections proposal on the ballot. It won with 66% of the vote, making Massachusetts the third state in the nation to adopt this sweeping reform.
By 2002, however, the reformers were waging a new battle. The Massachusetts State House, led by Speaker Thomas Finneran, used illegal tactics to prevent the funding of the law, rendering it inert. The reformers sued the legislature, and the state Supreme Court ruled that Finneran’s actions were unconstitutional — they would have to either fund the law, or repeal it. The legislature proceeded to incrementally dismantle and finally repeal the law, using a carefully-crafted advisory ballot question of their own to morally justify their outrageous repeal to the public. The full saga can be found at Mass Voters for Fair Elections.
This tragic setback for democracy has only steeled my resolve to improve the processes of this sacred political system. Since 2007, I’ve advocated tirelessly for a menu of critical reforms to make democracy more inclusive and government more accountable. Some of these reform goals are captured in my January 2012 letter to Occupy Boston.
Since 2010 I’ve sat on the Board of Directors of MassVOTE. A few years after I joined the board of Common Cause Massachusetts. I’ve also worked with or supported great national reform groups like FairVote, Represent.us, and Public Citizen. I’ve worked on transparency issues with the Sunlight Foundation, and am currently making accessible the historical record of power (election and ballot question results) for the general public with the ElectionStats project.