City Democracy Fund wants Yalies

The New Haven Democracy Fund wants more Yalies to serve on its governing body.

At its meeting at City Hall Monday evening, board chair Caleb Kleppner said there is currently an “appalling lack” of Yale students on the board, and three other board members said two Yale students who served in the past provided a valuable perspective. Yalies interested in serving on the board can apply on City Hall’s website.

The New Haven Democracy Fund is a city-run organization that promotes campaign finance reform in the city by providing public financing to qualified candidates who agree to abide by its rules, which include capping donations from individuals and party committees.

The first issue on the board’s agenda Monday evening was the constitutionality of how the fund finances candidates facing opponents who are not being financed by the fund and have spent at least $300,000 on their campaign.

According to the fund’s charter, if a candidate who is not participating in the New Haven Democracy Fund spends at least $300,000, opposing candidates participating in the fund who have reached 85 percent of the fund’s expenditure ceiling can either receive a public financing grant of $25,000 or have the amount the candidate is able to spend raised. In July, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar state law, saying it restricts the rights of candidates, individuals and organizations to spend their own funds on campaigns.

Though the board discussed the issue for more than 40 minutes, it concluded it would face such a constitutional dilemma only in a very unusual situation, though fund chair Caleb Kleppner said, laughing, “I want to get sued before my term on the board is up.”

“No candidates except for Mayor DeStefano have been able to raise $5,000,” said fund administrator Robert Weschsler, so it doesn’t make sense to worry about $300,000 campaigns in the City of New Haven , he added.

Currently the board is looking to fill one vacant seat, and last month the board addressed the fact that its racial composition is not representative of the New Haven population. Five of the five board members at the meeting were white and four were male. According to the 2000 census, about 35 percent of New Haven residents are white.

When asked who would fill the vacant seat, Kleppner, laughing, said “a guy with an unpronounceable Greek name — his demographic is white, male and Greek.”

A non-partisan board of six members and one administrator oversee the fund and meet once every three weeks at City Hall.

The Democracy Fund’s next meeting is Oct.18.

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