Sunderland to vote on anti-corruption resolution

Recorder Staff
Thursday, April 19, 2018

SUNDERLAND — When residents at the April 27 Town Meeting will decide on a measure to combat corruption at the state and federal levels, they could be following in the footsteps of Montague, Whately, Colrain, Conway, Shutesbury, Leverett and 19 other towns around the state that have approved the resolution.

Passing the Represent.us resolution, as 15 towns around Franklin and Hampshire counties have done, hasn’t done anything to stop corruption in its tracks, admits Reed Schimmelfing, a spokesman for Represent Western Mass.

Represent Western Mass is a regional affiliate of the grassroots Represent.us anti-corruption organization founded by Josh Silver, who grew up in Ashfield and Shelburne, and also co-founded the national public advocacy organization Free Press.

The resolution calls on the town’s state and federal representatives “to take a leadership role in clean government and campaign finance initiatives,” Schimmelfing said. “It doesn’t ask them to do any specific thing or things; it asks them to take this issue and move it forward, maybe requiring more transparency in campaign financing, or something like automatic voter registration to facilitate more participation in the voting process.”

Based on anti-corruption and campaign finance measures in Tallahassee, Fla., Seattle and Cook County, Ill., the Sunderland warrant item says the town favors “tough, new anti-corruption laws” to be passed in Congress, including those that would prohibit lobbyists from contributing money to political campaigns, place limits on unregulated SuperPACS, stop elected officials and their senior staff from negotiating future jobs while in office and bar them from any lobbying activity for five years after leaving.

The article also mentions empowering “all voters with a $100 tax rebate to contribute to candidates they support,” which Schimmelfing said is simply an example of the kind of publicly funded elections initiative supported by Represent.us.

Ultimately the grassroots organization, which holds its monthly meeting at sites around the Pioneer Valley, including the Sunderland Public Library, wants “to piggyback the local referenda onto future state and federal legislative proposals that push back against the influence of money in national politics and seek greater transparency in political donations.”

“We feel that once they know that 30 percent of the towns in their district have had a chance to vote on this and overwhelmingly supported it,” Schimmelfing said of state and federal legislators, “it’s going to get their attention and will want to support it because they know their constituents are calling for it.”

Schimmelfing said the western Massachusetts organization had been reaching out to other towns around the region, but were unsuccessful in enlisting volunteers in enough time to get articles on those Town Meeting warrants this year.

On the Web: www.Represent.us www.Representwma.us www.anticorruptionact.org