Is poverty tied 
to political

Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2015
PETERBOROUGH — Daniel Weeks knows he’s not an expert on poverty. But, a two-year, 10,000-mile journey across the country on a Greyhound bus showed the campaign finance reform activist that the U.S. poverty gap has as much to do with elections as it does with social inequality.

“We must start recognizing that poverty is a democracy problem. Our democracy is impoverished,” said Weeks at the Monadnock Summer Lyceum Sunday.

“We might summon the political will to expand the [income tax credit] and implement really high quality childhood intervention. [But] what’s to say that tomorrow, if most low-income people are not voting and providing zero dollars to fund campaigns, what’s to say [these programs won’t] go away.”

To cut the poverty gap, Weeks said special interest money must be removed from politics and the right to vote must be expanded to immigrants, ex-felons and citizens of U.S. territories.

Week’s lecture revolved around his experiences speaking with second-class citizens while he traveled to 30 states, living on $16 a day. He documented this experience first in “Poor (in) Democracy,” a series The Atlantic published in 2014, and “Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below,” a 2015 e-book that combines profiles of these citizens with analyses of poverty.

At the Lyceum, Weeks referred to material in his e-book, combining statistics of poverty and outside spending in politics with profiles of an ex-felon in Skid Row in L.A., an Mexican couple in the Southwest, and a homeless man in Washington D.C.

Weeks is also the executive director of Open Democracy, a campaign finance reform movement. Open Democracy’s N.H. Rebellion campaign organized a walk this weekend to memorialize its late matriarch, Doris “Granny D” Haddock of Dublin, who, at 88, walked across the country to advocate for campaign finance reform. Open Democracy held a screening of the documentary, “Priceless” at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church Friday, and a walk Saturday from Dublin to Peterborough. The Lyceum Sunday, also at the Unitarian Universalist Church, culminated the weekend.

Felicia Teter, a Dartmouth College senior, and Valerie Stefani, a university employee, walked Saturday and attended the Lyceum Sunday.

Teter, who is African-American, said Weeks was perfect for bringing this message to the community, of how poverty is tied to political corruption. She said that because Weeks is Caucasian and a Temple native, but lived like the other half on this journey, his lecture was inspiring, not “didactic.”

“Dan’s special,” she said. “He’s a great person to reach this audience.”

Wendy Bruneau of Wilton was excited to bring Weeks’s message to her students at High Mowing School. She is a teacher of American history there. She is particularly interested in sharing statistics Weeks offered in his lecture to her students.

Another audience member submitted a card for Week’s to answer to the crowd. The question asked that if outside spending is curbed, will America fail like Russian empire in 1917 or France in the late 18th century.

“God willing never,” said Weeks. “We want to beat this problem peacefully,” he said, citing walking all over the state, asking presidential candidates how they will end the corrupting influence of money in politics. “We think and hope that we can make a leader. I don’t think the leader is going to emerge. We have to make this issue the first issue.”

Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter @Benji_Rosen.