By ALLISON MATYUS
Hyde Park has a long standing history of breeding politicians and political figures. But with any politics comes some form of financial corruption or deceit from candidates and their campaigns. RunClean.org is trying to change that.
On Sunday at the Southside Hub of Production (SHoP), 1448 E. 57th St., RunClean opened up the discussion of running cleaner elections and getting future candidates on board to a fairer process.
RunClean allows candidates to campaign with dramatically less money by setting spending and funding caps and sharing resources to focus the campaign on the candidate and their causes, rather than how much money they are making on the campaign trail.
So far, the organization has helped campaigns for the 2nd Ward Alderman and the Illinois 18th Congressional District.
“We hope to change the culture of what the citizens and the voters expect,” said Phyllis Mandler, Founder of RunClean.org.
The panel included State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25), campaign manager Sean Tenner, former 2nd Ward candidate Cornell Wilson as well as community activist and former 4th Ward candidate, George Rumsey.
Rumsey spoke of the campaign he ran back in 2011 and his struggles of financing, despite his extensive involvement with the community.
“You would not believe how little you can get with $30,000. When you start adding up the lawn signs, the window signs, the meals for your volunteers, the workers on Election Day…it adds up,” he said.
Rumsey was able to raise about $28,000 for his 2011 campaign. He did it the old fashioned way of calling up residents and knocking on doors, but there were still obstacles beyond his control.
“I knew I was in trouble when I went to one of our neighborhood politicians to let her know I was going to run as a courtesy and she looked at me and said, ‘I wish you wouldn’t, but I can’t tell you not to,’” he said. “She said, ‘You won’t win because the candidate that you’re running against, I will see to it that he has enough money so he can’t lose.’”
That candidate was the current Ald. Will Burns (4th). According to a website called illinoissunshine.org that tracks campaign finance data and contributions, Burns raised $228,000 in his 2011 campaign.
As of 2011, Illinois enacted campaign contribution limits for all political committees registered. The cap limits vary depending on the type of political committee. Mandler said that political caps like these are heading in the right direction of laying out the playing field of a campaign.
For the 2nd Ward race, RunClean represented four of the six candidates who pledged campaign caps. However, Mandler said moving forward, she would rather represent all of the candidates in a race for a fairer chance.
“We won’t just accept any campaign. It depends on the location,” she said. “Different areas require different amounts of money and different ways of campaigning.”
By focusing on having candidates spend more time on addressing actual issues and getting the voters rather than talking in dollar signs, RunClean hopes to begin a wheel of change in the political system.
“We have a whole history in this country of starting small and building up a movement,” Mandler said. “If we want this to change, we can do this.”