Missouri farmers, who helped gather the more than 108,000 from Missouri voters, joined with other campaign finance reform supporters carrying petitions to Jefferson City to place a reform measure on the November ballot, according to the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Missouri Voters for Fair Elections, a coalition of individuals and more than 50 organizations, including the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), has worked since September to gather the required signatures to qualify the Fair Elections Act, a comprehensive campaign finance reform measure, for the ballot.

"We have the best farm and food policy that corporate dollars can buy," said MRCC member and Calloway County farmer Bryce Oates, referring to the 1996 farm bill--Freedom to Farm. "It is no accident that Cargill and IBP are declaring record profits on the backs of bankrupt farmers and impoverished rural communities. Corporate agribusiness has bought and paid for their political influence. But we are here to declare victory for the people, to take back our elections and stand up against corporate greed."

Rhonda Perry, an MRCC member from Howard County, agrees.

"If we had campaign finance reform several years ago, maybe our legislature would not have bent over backwards to bring corporate agribusiness into Missouri. Maybe the Missouri Congress wouldn't have gotten away with supporting factory farms, like Premium Standard Farms, with sweetheart deals and corporate welfare.

"Now, we are all picking up the pieces for their mistakes, feeling the effects of low commodity prices, polluted water and air and decreased property values. Now, we the people are writing the rules for a change. We are saying that democracy can't be bought and paid for with campaign contributions."

"We are calling for an end to a system where the dollar is the decisive factor in elections. In the current system, most people are kept out of the democratic process and voters have increasingly fewer choices," said Kathryn Allen, board member of the Missouri League of Women Voters. "Without a limit on campaign spending, our democracy suffers."

If enacted by the people of Missouri, the Fair Elections Act will:

--Limit the cost and the length of campaigns. Fair Elections Act candidates must agree to limit the cost and the length of their campaigns.

--Level the playing field for candidates by allowing qualified Missouri citizens to run for state office. Qualified candidates who abide by strict spending limits and take no private money can receive a set amount of public funding to run their campaign. Candidates must first qualify by demonstrating significant voter support within their district.

--Reduce the power of special interests in elections by severing the ties between candidates and special interest campaign contributions and limiting "soft money" contributions. The Fair Elections Act measure would allow participating candidates for state office, who abide by strict spending limits and take no money from private interests, to receive a set amount of funding for their campaign. Fair Elections Act is estimated to cost $13 million. The funding for Fair Elections Act comes from limiting a corporate franchise tax rollback recently granted to corporations with more than $2 million in assets who will give back one penny of $100 of their recent 33% tax break.

Missouri Voters for Fair Elections is a nonpartisan, non-profit, coalition of citizens and public interest groups, including the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, who supports comprehensive campaign finance reform.

Missouri Rural Crisis Center is a not-for-profit organization with 5,000 members statewide. Its mission is to preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity and strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, rural and urban.

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