Former U.S. Reps. Nancy Boyda (D-Kansas) and Sue Kelly (R-New York) addressed an audience of 150 for about an hour as part of the school’s Constitution Week festivities.
Boyda, who was defeated after serving only one term, 2007-09, said Congress members have lost the curiosity and compassion to understand what people on the other side of the aisle think, even claiming that moderate Republicans are demonized in Kansas.
“It’s just wrong how much money it takes to run for office today,” Boyda said. “How can you be expected to raise that much money and not have problems when you get to Congress? The influence of money in politics is corrosive … The fact that you can’t get together on health care, the environment, energy — the implications are huge.”
Kelly said that when she got to Congress in 1995, there were around 65 “Tuesday Group,” or moderate Republicans; now there are 26. Democrats, meanwhile, had more than 70 moderate “Blue Dogs,” which has decreased to 28.
“The wings of the party have driven everybody else out,” Kelly said, referring to the far right and left wings. “The wings of the party are eating their own.”
With websites and cable news constantly spewing questionable stories, the former legislators said students need to fact check information about Congressional candidates, using sites like OpenSecrets.org, a resource for federal campaign contributions. But some even criticize the use of fact checking, she said.
“People are going to tell you that FactCheck.com is the liberal media,” said Boyda, who said she’d never met Kelly before Tuesday night. “It’s not conservative or liberal. Everything that has some basic fact checking ability is being called into question now. Why?”
Kelly, who lost in her bid for a seventh term in 2006, said Congress members are often not given enough credit.
“People in Congress are a lot smarter than the press makes them out to be,” she said. “Being in Congress for four years is the equivalent of a Ph.D.”
KSU communications professor Dr. Keisha Hoerrner, an associate dean, said the speakers were chosen by a federal program called Congress to Campus, which sends bipartisan pairs of former Congress members to colleges across the country.
“Given the fact that it was an election year, we felt it would be helpful to our students to get resources and be informed to go out and vote,” Hoerrner said.
Sam Leonard of Woodstock, a KSU freshman information systems major, said the presentation was valuable.
“It’s good to get a couple more opinions and get more information and check the sources,” he said.
KSU’s American Democracy Project will host another event at 12:30 p.m. today in room 1000 of the Prillaman Health Sciences building on the school’s campus at 1000 Chastain Road. The speaker will be Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.