When Public Citizen put out a call for a member to stand up for a change in the way money influences elections in South Carolina, Ray Cellura stood up.
Public Citizen Member Ray Cellura recently testified in support of Clean Elections. Ray represented us well in the first hearing ever held on public funding of state elections in South Carolina. He carefully prepared to read our official statement [link] and answer the myriad of tough questions that could arise, only to have his time cut from about ten minutes to one.
Here is Ray’s account:
“Much of the colloquy by Sen. Ford focused on the inevitability of big money influence, political fund raising and how money poured into incumbents, and how legislators didn't really mind fundraising all that much (Sen. Moore). So, I said that I would never be able to walk in the shoes of legislators and know the demands placed upon them, but I could watch them walk in their shoes, and back in Abbeville I read the papers and watched TV. I told them I found the political process – particularly the influence of corporate money – saddening.
Picking up on a point you had prepared for my presentation . . . I lifted info I recalled from the Breaking Free report and suggested that however much legislators found fundraising inevitable and not too imposing, I suspected they wouldn't eagerly wish to do a lot more of it. Then, I pointed out the research indicating that while state-level politicians in general spent about 24 percent of their time fund raising, those who opted to participate in Clean Election programs spent only 8 percent of their time doing that.”
Ray was spot on.
Clean Election systems are working in states like Maine and Arizona, and elsewhere as evidenced in our report, “Breaking Free with Fair Elections: A New Declaration of Independence for Congress” [pdf].
The press picked up Ray’s passion for clean elections. The Associated Press quoted him saying, “I'm deeply concerned about the amount of money going into campaigns. It makes me feel the government is up for grabs to the highest bidder.”
Ray didn’t leave the hearing before submitting our official statement and a copy of Breaking Free to the Senate committee.
Consideration of the South Carolina Clean Elections Act is a giant step towards elections with less special interest money and more representation of the public interest. Thanks to a strong and growing network of reform organizations and activists like Ray Cellura, the prospects for progress on Clean Elections in South Carolina is brighter.
We want to hear from you. Are you taking action to fight corruption and make government more accountable to the people? Let us know.
If you’re interested in getting more involved, contact Angela Canterbury at email@example.com.
Our high-flying activist, Ray Cellura, is a psychologist who retired in 2003 as Chief of Psychology and Director of Psychosocial Services at East Central Regional Hospital, Augusta, Georgia. Cellura is the author of The Genomic Environment and Niche-Experience and many other articles.