Pioneer Valley activists backing campaign finance reform plan to take part in march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2016

AMHERST — Two Pioneer Valley residents are among thousands who have pledged to march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in April — and potentially get arrested — to support campaign finance reform.

The group wants to move to a public financing system for elections rather than the current system, which allows organizations called super PACs that can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals and corporations for use in affecting elections.

Paddy Lane, 70, of Amherst, got involved after she got an email from progressive organization that said “sit in with thousands and save democracy for millions,” she said.

“I thought, ‘Boy oh boy, that is exactly what is needed,’ ” she said. “Things are so bad right now — how the country is not functioning.”

Graeme Sephton, 64, of Shutesbury, said he was interested as a former supporter of Doris “Granny D” Haddock and her cross-country walk at the age of 89 for campaign finance reform. Haddock died in 2010 at the age of 100, but Sephton said her cause of getting corporate money out of politics lives on.

“I’ve avoided being arrested for 64 years; now is the time,” Sephton said, adding that Haddock herself was arrested in the Capitol Building rotunda for reading the Constitution.

Sephton cited a Princeton study that found that what the majority of Americans wanted did not actually matter when it came to which policies were enacted, and that the wealthy and influential made those decisions instead.

Sephton said he is supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for president, but that he also supported Lawrence Lessig, whose short-lived Democratic candidacy for president was based entirely around campaign finance.

Lessig in 2014 set up the Mayday super PAC, which was supposed to use big money to get candidates elected to oppose big money being used in elections. The project raised $10 million and then nearly every candidate it supported lost in the 2014 mid-term election cycle.

Lessig’s presidential campaign never got traction and he decided to drop out of the race after failing to meet thresholds to get on the Democratic debate stage.

Sephton believes it was unfair not to allow Lessig to be a part of the debate, which unlike Republican debates were not constrained for space with 17 candidates. Sephton thinks an action of civil disobedience is more likely to get attention.

“We want to have a positive effect on the degree to which dark money and PAC money can interfere in the 2016 election,” he said.

At the same time, Sephton said more will have to join into the movement before it has an effect. “We’ll need to get a zillion people to show up,” he said. “A few thousands of people is not going to be a sea change.”

Lane said the political system is in a deadlock and few people work together on important things.

“That means the country is not responding to people’s real needs,” she said. “The 2016 election is shaping up to be the most expensive, billionaire-dominated cycle, and that to me is not democracy.”

Lane hopes that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows super PACs to receive unlimited sums of money to be spent on elections, should be overturned.

“I hope that a lot of people pay attention to this event and we can not only encourage people from our own area to be involved but have them call relatives and get everyone on board,” she said. “We need to do better with our democracy to get back to where it is functioning.”

More information about the march and sit-in can be found at

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at


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