POLITICS

Campaign Finance Reformers Use The Force To Gain New Supporters

It's a new effort to organize pop culture fans for political action.

With the release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" imminent, there is high expectation that political and policy campaigns will use the Force -- the light or the dark, depending on your personal point of view, I guess -- to reach out to new supporters. Case in point: supporters of campaign finance reform.

The U.S. Rebel Alliance is a project of Civic Hall’s Andrew Slack and a host of partner organizations working to reform the way American elections are funded. The purpose of the campaign is to gain new supporters who will be directed to perform weekly tasks, such as calling lawmakers to ask for their support of reform legislation and pressing the issue when presidential candidates appear in New Hampshire.

The campaign’s launch comes with a video with a bunch of Hollywood and YouTube stars you may or may not recognize (depending upon your age) calling for people to join the Rebel Alliance. There’s actor Mark Ruffalo, actor and musician Darren Criss, comedian and author Baratunde Thurston, teen actors Karan Brar and Ty and Ryan Simpkins, and voice actor and YouTube star Brizzy Voices.

“The story and symbolism of Star Wars are the story and symbolism of America," Slack, who founded the Harry Potter Alliance, an effort to organize fans of the wizard book series for political action, said in a statement. "America’s founding revolution has never truly stopped, as subsequent generations have worked for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. More than two centuries later, we’ve made great strides, but a new Empire is Striking Back at our Republic, threatening to undo the progress we’ve made.”

“It is comprised of super wealthy villains -- accountable to no one -- fueling their narrow, self-serving agenda through massive infusions of big money,” Slack said. “Big money, like the Death Star of the Empire, uses brute force to impose the will of the few upon the many. It has created an unlevel playing field for American voters, and corrupted our political system. What we need is an awakening of the Rebel Alliance.”

Nearly every group working to reform election fundraising and spending has signed up as a partner, including 99Rise, Common Cause, DEMOS, Every Voice, Free Speech for People, Funny or Die, MAYDAY.us, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Represent.US, US PIRG and Working Families Party.

Slack, who has a background in comedy, acting and social organizing, has experience in tapping into communities created around popular culture through his Harry Potter Alliance. The group succeeded in fights for fair trade and LGBT issues, among others, and now has a full-time staff and 300 chapters throughout the world. He calls this practice of tapping into pop culture communities "cultural acupuncture."

“That is finding where that energy is in the culture and moving that energy into places in the real world where it is needed,” Slack says.

Star Wars was a natural next target for activating a community invested in popular culture. “Ultimately, Star Wars is the most resonant and relevant modern myth,” Slack says.

He calls it “a retelling of the American revolution,” saying that “it really speaks to something important to the American psyche.”

What supporters will be asked to do will be decided on a web call on Sunday -- once everyone has seen the new movie. For now, Slack imagines that the first action likely will take place around the next State of the Union address to press President Barack Obama on discussing the issue of money in politics.

The U.S. Rebel Alliance will then work with partner organizations in early primary and caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire to press presidential candidates on the issue.

For now, supporters can sign a Jedi Pledge to obtain their very own virtual lightsaber. Of course, be careful how you use those things. You could lose an arm or just embarrass yourself.

This story has been updated to include comment from Slack.