Represent.Maryland works to inform and enact change in Baltimore, state-wide
By Liz McMahon
Politics have mingled with corruption, be it direct or unintentional, since the first iteration of democracy. In today’s unsure and confusing climate, many U.S. residents are searching for new ways to fight for representation and speak out against politicians who abuse their power. Represent.Maryland, a local chapter of national anti-corruption organization Represent.Us, is making strides to educate Marylanders on political corruption, the American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) and what we can do to put an end to the racket.
“Without the volunteer effort, none of this stuff is going to change,” says Cristi Demnowicz, Represent.Maryland Chapter founder and leader. Though Demnowicz has a full-time job, she, “generally does about 30-40 hours per week,” working for Represent.Maryland, an all-volunteer organization.
“We’re basing everything we do on the AACA,” Demnowicz explains. The AACA is a framework of legislation which states its mission is to, “stop political bribery, end secret money, and fix our broken elections,” a tall order relying on the grassroots participation and activism of state and local organizations to effect its goal of nationwide change.
More specifically, the AACA proposes anti-corruption legislation such as banning elected officials from fundraising during office hours, accepting money from super PACs (political action committees) who often do not disclose the source of their donations—which Represent.Maryland refers to as “dark money”, gerrymandering (when politicians remap voting districts to improve their chances of winning elections) and several other questionable behaviors presently the norm in our political system.
Where does Baltimore stand on the corruption spectrum?
“Basically, Baltimore is no different than other other large city, in that things happen that are just the status quo,” Demnowicz answers. “Over time, the way things are have benefited certain groups [of people] over others.” Essentially, what we see on a national level, we can expect to find present in our local government as well.
Represent.Maryland has three main goals: “to educate as many people as possible that this is a problem, to build a network and database of anti-corruption voters and to eventually pass legislation to further the goals of the AACA at the local and state level,” Demnowicz tells the UB Post. “The first step is building awareness in the community.”
Represent.Maryland is very firm on being a non-partisan organization. “We absolutely never endorse a candidate,” says Demnowicz. However, “during election time we reach out to candidates and ask them to endorse our initiative. That’s one way that people can know if that candidate finds these things important of not.”
Every month, the organization has an outreach event in all of its jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Demnowicz also speaks to groups interested in learning more about the anti-corruption movement.
“10 years ago was the time to start fixing this,” she says. “Now is the time we really, really need to start buckling down and working on it.”