New Center to Study Finances of Elections

By and

The campaign financing system in the United States is broken, and many people just accept it, said U alumnus Kirk Jowers.

However, a new campaign finance reform center is trying to fix the system.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has donated $3.5 million to the U to create the Campaign and Media Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

“We hope the center will file lawsuits and hold the spotlight up to campaign finance,” said Jowers, the center’s director of academic affairs and deputy general council.

The 1996 presidential election was part of the impetus for the center. Campaign finance practices for both Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole were in a legal gray area. Their practices were examined, but no definite ruling was made, said Matthew Burbank, political science associate professor.

The goal of the center is to try and be more proactive in interpreting campaign laws and rules, he said.

The center will also provide a new perspective.

“The campaign finance reform debate has become such a D.C.-intense debate that we need to know what the people in the Rocky Mountains and middle of the country are thinking too,” Jowers said.

About three or four interns will serve at the center, Burbank said.

“The grant is a little unusual in the fact that it’s not only for academic research but also for teaching and interns,” Burbank said.

Former Federal Election Committee member Trevor Potter originally fought for the grant to create the center, while Jowers pushed for the U to host the center because of his history with the university.

“The most significant role I’ve played is selling the U, especially the internship program they have here in D.C. and the professors’ research at the U,” he said.

The U administration has also pulled for the grant. Mike Benson, former special assistant to U President Bernie Machen, wanted the grant, Burbank said.

Now that Benson has left, Burbank and two communication professors, Dennis Alexander and Robert Avery will share the responsibilities.

The actual center will most likely open completely on Feb. 1, Jowers said. The first intern may be in place as soon as the opening, Burbank said.

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