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Campaign finance reform received cool welcome at GOP summit

Last modified: 4/18/2015 11:49:02 PM
Campaign finance reform advocates calling themselves the New Hampshire Rebellion were first snubbed then outright booted from the Republican summit in Nashua this weekend.

Rebellion Director Jeff McLean said his group was set to be a sponsor of the New Hampshire GOP event that featured nearly every potential Republican candidate for president. But its sponsorship was pulled at the last minute.

The reasoning behind the revocation, McLean said, was that the state GOP confused the N.H. Rebellion, founded by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, with another of Lessig’s projects. That effort, called Mayday PAC, opposed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Scott Brown in the most recent election in favor of a primary challenger friendly to the campaign finance reform movement, namely former state senator Jim Rubens.

McLean said N.H. Rebellion organizer Xanni Brown, who received the phone call, argued that the rebellion is a separate and unaffiliated entity, “but they said to us the decision had already been made. I found out Wednesday morning and we said to ourselves, ‘That’s not right,’ ” McLean said.

Nevertheless, the bipartisan group carried out its plan to walk from Lowell, Mass., to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua to call on the candidates to commit to “put an end to influence-peddling crony capitalism that is undermining free market competition and preventing our leaders in Washington from addressing other major issues of the day.”

When they arrived, a group of about 80 marchers chanted and sang on their way to the door of the hotel. There, Ellen Read, a rebellion activist who dressed as Paul Revere and road on horseback for portions of the walk, read a decree.

“We will not sit idly by,” she said from under a three-cornered hat. “We believe in the principles that this great nation was founded on, that every person is equal, that there cannot be taxation without legitimate representation and that government shall remain of, by and for the people!”

The police on hand then dispersed the crowd.

After a few minutes, Read entered the summit through the media door with legitimate credentials and began handing out fliers to anyone who would accept them. The papers suggested that “liberty and small government” were “blocked by corruption,” but Read was only able to disperse a handful of them.

The summit representatives at the door went from complimenting her Paul Revere outfit to taking away her credentials and forcing her out of the door in a matter of moments.

Read said she only wanted to hand out her fliers and didn’t expect that reaction.

“They took my badge and they kicked me out,” she said. “They said ‘Excuse me, you have to leave’ and ‘grab her pass, grab her pass.’ ”

Dan Weeks, the executive director of Open Democracy, which runs the N.H. Rebellion, said he was disappointed in the reaction.

“We’re here with nothing but love for the candidates,” he said. “We just want them to love us back.”

Weeks said advocates will be most successful going directly to candidates without the party filter.

“We have not found the parties – either party – to be particularly amenable to our cause,” he said. “They’re raising the big money. They are very much a part of the system and so we welcome them to help make change, but we haven’t seen much of it yet.”

“I’m not surprised the party rejects organizations that challenge the basis of their power, but they can’t reject a tsunami of citizens who are raising this at every stop,” he said. “They can’t kick everyone of us out.”

McLean said he expected “it’ll take one or two meetings and then we’ll get back in” with the party.

Campaign finance reform was not a major theme in the candidates’ talking points.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325 or nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickBReid.)


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