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Group walks to DC to highlight money in politics

Posted at 8:40 PM, Apr 07, 2016
They came together from 33 different states to walk the 140 miles between Philadelphia and Washington. The group of some 150 people trekked Thursday through dreary weather to bring awareness to what they said is the influence of money in politics.
 
They're calling attention to a 2010 Supreme Court decision known as "Citizens United" which essentially gave the right of political free speech to large organizations. It's something seen in races for federal offices, but no race is off limits.
 
Every step along the way, the group said their message gets louder.
 
"Our democracy is not working for all of us, for every day people," said Kai Newkirk, campaign director for "Democracy Spring."
 
He led a similar walk in California where, he said, their voices helped pass key state legislation. He said he maintained hope the same result would follow this trip as well.
 
"Super PAC's allow billionaires to put millions and millions of dollars into our elections and drown out the voices of every day Americans," Newkirk said.
 
Their message was also heard by Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, who planned to meet with the group Thursday afternoon.
 
Ruppersberger said money from Super PAC's and their influence on elections must be addressed. He's proposed a house and senate joint resolution that allows states to pass their own legislation to bar corporations from influencing elections through money.
 
"Whether or not you agree with their issues or not, they're not only walking the walk, they're talking the talk. I think we have to do whatever we can to make sure we do not allow billionaires to control our elections in our country," said Ruppersberger.
 
Nina Kasniunas, an associate professor of political science at Goucher College, said the influence of outside money -- albeit on a smaller scale -- is being seen in this year's Baltimore mayoral race, too.
 
"It can influence any level of race," Kasniunas said. "We haven't seen a tremendous amount of Super PAC's in the mayoral race, but there's one in particular that's been engaging in a lot of activity, and I suspect that won't change."
 
She was referring to "Clean Slate Baltimore," a local group spending money to oppose one candidate, while supporting another.
 
Both candidates, former mayor Sheila Dixon, and Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat running for mayor, have denounced the method of attacks the group has launched.
 
It's not clear if the group's materials have shifted voter favor in the race, but back along the path to Washington, Elise Whitaker said it's the fact that money makes it possible which pushed her forward amid Thursday afternoons pouring rain.
 
"We have to have a democracy that works for people before we can win on any of these other issues," Whitaker said as she walked.
 
The group planned to continue walking to Washington Friday morning.
 
Newkirk said they were considering a sit-in protest inside the Capitol building to highlight their message further.