Anti-Corruption Group Launches with First Meeting on Sunday

Published : Monday, July 10, 2017 | 5:08 AM

Represent.US San Gabriel Valley board member Sean McMorris

About 30 people gathered Sunday in the Pasadena Public Library’s main branch near City Hall for the launch meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of Represent.US, a non-partisan and non-profit organization which aims to end corruption in government, where the group’s board members bemoaned the influence of money over local politics.

“Donors are giving money, which buys influence” said San Gabriel resident and Represent.US San Gabriel Valley board member Sean McMorris.

According to McMorris, government has become less representative for the people due to the influx of money from donors, often causing corruption in democracy.

The group wants local cities to establish rules limiting donations City Council candidates can accept.

During the meeting, McMorris provided examples of how money can buy influence, here in the San Gabriel Valley. He cited a race in Alhambra where the two candidates who raised the most money both won seats on the Council. McMorris said the playing field just isn’t level so long as the candidate getting the big money behind him or her, always wins.

“We want to help give more candidates the opportunity to run,” McMorris said.

McMorris cited no examples of alleged corruption or influence peddling in Pasadena.

About 30 people from all over the San Gabriel Valley attended the meeting.

The launch was attended by people from all over the San Gabriel Valley, many of whom voiced sentiments against their respective elected officials.

An attendee from Alhambra said he does not believe that that City’s Council, Mayor and political leaders of the city are good stewards of the community.

Robert Burnham, who said he was from Pasadena, said money is not free speech while another attendee said he came to the launch to air his support for environmental justice.

According to McMorris, his group intends to combat government corruption by convincing local lawmakers to pass laws that address political bribery and promote campaign finance reform.

McMorris said Represent.US was organized in 2012 with the intent of bringing together conservatives, progressives and everyone in between to pass anti-corruption laws. At present, Represent.US reportedly has over 50 chapters, with over half a million members and volunteers in every state.

McMorris said he initially started to plan the establishment of an anti-corruption group in San Gabriel Valley about six months ago when he had “some battles” with the Alhambra City Council.

That experience encouraged him to look at Represent.US and he started coordinating with the organization to be able to set up a local chapter.

“We’re putting aside partisan differences and working together to protect our communities from corruption and build momentum for national reform,” McMorris said. “We need to fix our broken political system and we know our government won’t do it for us: we have to fight corruption ourselves.”

Board Member Melissa Michelson of Alhambra

McMorris said the group asks members from each city to attend all local City Council meetings and report on them.

“The people that we have that go to the Pasadena City Council meetings have brought up some real concerns, like, ‘We think there’s some conflict of interest here, how do we follow the money?’ So we walk them through how they can basically follow the money back to where it’s coming from,” McMorris said.

To arrest corruption in their local government, McMorris said citizens can work with their local elected leaders to implement reform. McMorris said to minimize the chances of money dictating who wins local or national elections, reform movements such as, electronic donor disclosure or creating donor limits can be crucial.

Represent San Gabriel Valley, in tandem with Represent Los Angeles,

Robert Burnham (right) in deep discussion with an unidentified woman during the Prepresent.US launch meeting on July 9, 2017.

are the two local chapters of Represent.Us, which claims to be the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption campaign. Represent.Us brings together conservatives, progressives and everyone in between to pass anti-corruption laws in cities and states around the country.

McMorris said anyone with a genuine concern for political reform can join Represent San Gabriel Valley.

“Local, grassroots organizing is how we win the fight against corruption.” Said Represent.Us Executive Director, Josh Silver. “Together we are building a movement from the ground up and fighting for a future where political outcomes are dictated by the best ideas, not the biggest bank accounts.”

For more information about the group, Sean McMorris, at mcmorris23@gmail.com or (626) 382-6994.