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Group Sponsors Talk on Money, Politics

Three speakers informed an audience of about 20 people about issues dealing with the campaign finance system and its reform.

Speakers included Cynthia Brown, a self-described "grassroots candidate" running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jesse Helms, and environmentalist Dan Coleman, an author and member of the Sierra Club.

Frances Ferris, a UNC sophomore and the third speaker on the panel, conveyed a student perspective on the issue.

"I feel that we're just students in the eyes of lawmakers," Ferris said. "There's a lack of access to lawmakers, and I don't feel that they respond to me because they cater to the interests of big money."

Ferris said she joined student government last year and acts as a liaison between student government and other government agencies. She also has been working against tuition increases.

Coleman spoke after Ferris, describing several instances in which the government has avoided legislation to improve the environment because of corporations' contributions of millions of dollars to the government.

"There is a very large number of Americans who believe that the environment is important," Coleman said. "But last year the government passed 53 anti-environment laws."

As a candidate running for the U.S. Senate, Brown, who spoke next, said her views regarding finance reform are seen as progressive. "This issue is at the heart of my campaign," Brown said.

"As long as we have so much money involved in the political and economic process ... basic needs won't be addressed."

However, Brown said that she is not unrealistic about the issue since money is needed for costly advertising. But she also said that there is a lot of money passed under the table to influence voting.

The campus finance reform coalition began this semester and includes members of different campus groups, including the Young Democrats, College Republicans, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment and the Carolina Lobby Corps.

"We want the coalition to be as nonpartisan as possible," said Dennis Markatos, a 2000 graduate who helped organize the forum.

"This is an issue that brings a lot of other issues together -- the speakers did a good job of connecting the dots."

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