In a time of political divide and agenda-driven politics, one Auburn-based group is working to find compromise and put power back in the hands of voters.
John Pudner, executive director of Take Back Our Republic, took control of the organization, which is located on Magnolia Street in the heart of downtown Auburn, in 2014. He helped transform the organization from a political campaign group to a group working to fix the system, Pudner said.
TBOR seeks to educate people on campaign finance issues and how they can affect citizens. The organization also teaches citizens how to support candidates and legislative organizations that favor individuals as opposed to corporations.
“The end goal for us [is] we want Americans to once again have faith in the system,” Pudner said. “That includes faith that candidates are focused on them, not just out-of-state or big money [interests.]”
Pudner, who has experience running political campaigns, wanted to alter TBOR from its political campaign state and turn it into a nonprofit educational organization.
“Just seeing the corrupting influence of money on politics and how constituents were becoming less relevant got me and some other Republicans wanting reform,” Pudner said. “Some Republicans actually called me and asked if instead of running campaigns I would be willing to try and fix the system.”
He wanted to make the group a place where conservatives feel at home with reform, Pudner said.
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“We want conservatives to be comfortable with reform because in a lot of cases there are a lot more progressives working on these corruption issues, and we don’t think there is any reason for that,” Pudner said.
One of the reasons TBOR is located in Auburn is to help differentiate itself from other groups that have strong political ties or party loyalty. “We are not in the middle of the whole D.C. thing,” Pudner said. “We’re outside the beltway. I don’t think we could have started this in Berkley and said, ‘Hey, we’re the conservative group.’”
Being outside of D.C. helps the group to think differently, and keeps the organization close to the constituents. He hopes to create more understanding and compromise between the two sides of the political spectrum, Pudner said.
“People say we’re kind of a unicorn in the meeting,” Pudner said. “We’ve got sort of a conservative background, but we come to work every day doing something that lines up with someone who is actually progressive.”
The organization also focuses heavily on educating voters on how to make the most out of their votes and how to make the biggest impact with their decisions.
“We try to do the research and find the right language for educational papers to inform people about reform and how it benefits everyone,” Pudner said. “Some of the people really reacted well to the ‘drain the swamp’ term we used, which was another way of saying campaign finance reform.”
One of Pudner’s goals for TBOR is to create an open-source app that helps people to run their own campaigns without getting addicted to big money, he said.
The hope is that with low-budget campaigns standing a better chance, more candidates will focus on siding with the people as opposed to big-money agendas.
“The reason low-dollar candidates often fail is because they don’t know how to do it,” Pudner said. “You spend 80 percent of your time raising money, and it’s this whole addictive process, and we want to cut out that whole addiction.”
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