A street-level view of money in politics (March 30, 2012)

State Sen. Cynthia Dill will highlight the prohibitive cost of running for office and having access to political power by setting up a sidewalk “bake sale” tonight outside a Portland fundraiser for President Obama, where donors will pay $5,000 and up for a dinner with the president.

Dill, a leading progressive in the race to succeed Olympia Snowe, will offer baked goods to the public, plus “Super Pacs” of 4 lobster-shaped sugar cookies for $25,385, the per-capita income for the average Maine citizen. She hopes to highlight the exorbitant cost of participating in democracy, and the disproportionate influence of wealthy donors on the American political process.

“Ordinary Americans are priced out of our political system, and it shows,” Dill says.

“While the president and the political elite enjoy their dinner, thousands of Maine families are counting their dollars carefully trying to make ends meet. Government needs to work for ordinary people who play by the rules, and everyone should have access to their representatives.

“The system needs reform, and if elected to be Maine’s next U.S. senator, I will do everything in my power to make democracy accessible to the common man and woman,” Dill said. “The 1% can enjoy their lobster rolls and fine wine inside. I will stand with people of everyday means outside, those who our political system is supposed to represent yet could never afford the kind of access these donors will enjoy.”

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United allows corporations and super-rich secret organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns to elect or defeat federal candidates, adding to the enormous influence they already wielded within the political process.

Dill will talk to supporters about two campaign finance reform bills she backs in Congress:

• The Fair Elections Now Act, which would establish a public funding system for federal elections and outline eligibility and contribution requirements, as well as prohibitions such as those on joint fundraising committees.

• The Disclose Act, which seeks to increase transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns by requiring organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund.

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