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April 12, 2001

Money, Media and Politics

By Jolene Bracy
UW-RF News Bureau

Campaign finance and reforms are essential topics for discussion among scholars, public officials, journalists and the public. In the last election cycle, special interest group contributions to candidates campaign funds reached an all time high. Over $490 million was spent to finance campaigns. The issues of campaign finance and "soft money"‹unregulated campaign contributions‹reforms are under debate in Congress. The soft money fund-raising method questions the integrity of the elected officials, from the local level through the office of the president.

"Is Democracy For Sale? Money, Media and Politics" will be the focus of a panel discussion addressing these topics at the UW-River Falls Hagestad Student Center on April 23 at 4 p.m. The event is sponsored by the UW-RF journalism and political science departments and is free and open to the public.

The keynote speaker is Charles Lewis, author of "The Buying of the President 2000" and founder of the Center for Public Integrity; a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C. The Center for Public Integrity concentrates on ethic and public service issues. Lewis has authored or co-written more than 40 investigative reports published by the Center.

Lewis, an internationally recognized speaker, has delivered addresses on corruption or journalism at conferences in Belarus, England, France, Hungary, Ireland, Russia Sweden and South Africa.

For 11 years, Lewis was an investigative reporter for both ABC and CBS News, and was a producer for "60 Minutes." Lewis holds a masterıs degree from Johnıs Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies in Washington and a B.A. in political science with honors and distinction from the University of Delaware. Lewisıs address will follow his participation in the panel discussion.

The Center for Public Integrity and its publications received a first place and two finalists honors in the 2000 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards. The Center has received the Society of Professional Journalists 1996 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in newsletter journalism.

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) will be among the panelists discussing "Money, Media and Politics." Representing the areas of politics, scholastics and journalism, the other panelists are: Dean Alger, Minnesota Director for the Alliance for Better Campaigns and author of "MegaMedia" and "The Media and Politics;" Dave Schultz, Hamline University and Common Cause Minnesota; Rick Evans, attorney and former chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota and Marsha Pitts-Phillips, planning editor and field producer from KSTP.

Wealthy interest groups supporting the candidates often expect and get a return on the contribution in tax breaks or beneficial legislation, according to Lewis. Congress recently passed S 27, the Campaign Finance Reform bill sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Feingold addressed a group of students, faculty and community members regarding campaign finance reform and the status of the bill on April 11 at the UW-RF campus.

Forum coordinator journalism Professor Patricia Berg said there is change on the national political horizon and as campaign finance is debated, and Americans need to address these issues and bring them to a local level to be discussed as well . Moderators for the discussion are Berg, and political science department Chair Tracey Gladstone-Sovell.

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