Reforming campaign financing, from the ground up.

April 28, 2015
Cousins Charlie Thompson, left, and Eric Lund, have formed Represent Mason County.

Cousins Charlie Thompson, left, and Eric Lund, have formed Represent Mason County.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Cousins Charlie Thompson and Eric Lund are passionate about campaign finance reform. The two have recently started a local chapter of the national Represent Us movement in the hopes of changing campaign financing from the ground up. Represent Mason County held its first meeting earlier this month.

“We basically want to end legalized bribery in government,” Thompson said.

Represent Us is a national movement that is attempting to get Congress to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act. The act’s purpose, according to is to overhaul lobbying and ethics laws, end anonymous donations to political campaigns and creating citizen-funded elections. Thompson said it will also outlaw fundraising during legislators’ work hours.

“It takes the big money picture out of running for office and makes it a small money picture,” Thompson said. “Candidates wouldn’t have to go to all these special interest groups if this act were to pass.”

The issue, Thompson said, is that special interest money seems to control legislatures. For that reason, growing the movement from the local level seems to be the logical move.

“The act isn’t going to pass in Congress right now,” Thompson said. “We know it isn’t going to pass because those are the guys who are benefiting from the corruption. Our hope is that our local officials coming up are free of the corruption.”

Both Thompson, 28, and Lund, 32, are military veterans. Thompson served four years in the Air Force while Lund served in the Army National Guard. He was severely injured while serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

“Most recently I’ve come to have a lot of time on my hands and I want to fill that time productively,” Lund said. “I am sick of politics as usual and I wanted to find something that mattered. I want to change things.”

“From my perspective, as a veteran, we always talk about how we served and were fighting for people’s right to vote,” Thompson said. “Well, that right to vote is guaranteed in the Constitution. But, your right to be heard on the Capitol is what’s at question. It doesn’t matter what my issues are, my voice isn’t being heard because of the corruption that is established in the current political system — the interest groups, the lobbyists. It is what it is. It’s corruption and it exists throughout the whole system. If that system stays in place, all that is being heard is from people who have money. This movement is intended to reclaim our democracy.”

The Represent Mason County chapter meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Redolencia Coffee House, 119 W. Ludington Ave.

Lund said the first meeting was well attended with a diverse political spectrum. He said about 20 people showed up. The majority of those in attendance were in their 20s and 30s but there were several age groups represented. 

“This isn’t about one political party versus another,” Lund said. “This is about being heard in Washington, in Lansing and even here in Mason County.”

Thompson said the local chapter’s goal is to help the national movement get enough signatures to force Congress to look at the AACA. He said they plan on educating local politicians about the act and want to encourage local endorsements, such as the passing of resolutions, to show a united front toward reform.

“We are still in the early stages of the group and are in the process of establishing our core leadership,” Thompson said. “Once we do that, we will then start to reach out to the local municipal boards and talk to them about how they can be part of making change.”

Represent Mason County is open to anyone. Thompson said many successful chapters include representatives from all political spectrums. He describes himself as a “bleeding heart liberal” while Lund said he is more in the center. They both agreed that the group welcomes conservatives as well.

“We actually need all sides of the political spectrum in order to be successful,” Thompson said. “The tea party has been a big part of this movement, in fact.”

Represent Us claims to have over 500,000 supporters. Thompson said it isn’t the only movement that is currently taking place to address campaign finance reform. He said another group is attempting to introduce a 28th amendment to the Constitution that would basically do the same thing the AACA would do.

“I don’t really see a need to amend the Constitution,” Thompson said. “I think the act has merit and will basically accomplish the same thing.”

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