Lars Benson '18 named Marshall Scholar
Benson, who will graduate in June with a bachelor’s in political science, has experienced the inequality of the U.S. electoral system up close. As a Marshall scholar, he’ll obtain a different perspective of campaign finance.
Benson will pursue a master’s in public administration at the London School of Economics, with a focus on the U.K. electoral system and the comparison between British and American campaign finance law. A volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, Benson said he saw how money influences political engagement growing up in Bemus Point, New York, just miles from the southwest border with Pennsylvania.
“I saw an extraordinary amount of distrust and disillusionment in the political system among my friends and family, who felt and still feel that the electoral system doesn't work for them,” he said. “Years later, as an organizer for Fair Elections in Chicago, I talked and worked with so many people who felt the same way -- that the electoral system shut them out of politics and systematically silenced their voices while magnifying the influence of a tiny and often exploitative donor class.”
Later, Benson worked as an organizer with Common Cause Illinois and as chief of staff for Northwestern’s Associated Student Government, where he witnessed more political disillusionment.
“I've found that disenfranchisement unites people from all backgrounds and ideologies, and I hope that my work as a Marshall scholar helps me understand how to address it,” Benson said.
Following the two-year master’s program in London, Benson said he wants to return to the U.S. and once again get involved in politics. He wants to remove financial barriers to political participation by advancing policies such as publicly financed elections and nationwide automatic voter registration.
“I believe that when I return in 2020, we will be in a political moment that recognizes that billionaires should no longer control the mechanisms of power in America,” Benson said. “I want to channel that energy and desire for equity into meaningful reform.”