Don’t just worry about billionaires' control over our democracy in New York. Fight back.Get Involved
New York City yet again saw an overwhelming majority of candidates for city office participate in the small donor matching system, proving once again the effectiveness of public financing, and the Moreland Commission will issue recommendations next month on how to curb corruption. Voters across the state are concerned about their lack of a real voice in Albany.
Small- and medium-sized business, like the ones I represent, also worry their needs get overlooked in the shadow of jumbo contributions. To fix Albany, New York’s business community needs to come together to support comprehensive reform.
There are many critical and long-overdue proposals to fix the outmoded laws governing the financing of campaigns for state offices: Albany needs to reduce sky-high contribution limits, close loopholes, provide for professional enforcement of these laws, and, most important, enact a small donor matching system for contributions. Special interest donors who can afford to make five-figure contributions can overwhelm state politicians, marginalizing the voices of average New Yorkers.
This is certainly troubling to all of us as private citizens and voters. But New York’s businesses are also harmed by the pay-to-play system under which political contributions shape legislation.
Small and medium-sized businesses are New York’s most dynamic job creating engine, and need legislators willing to act on their concerns. We cannot continue to foster a system that risks elevating businesses with the best political connections above those with the best business practices. This problem is pervasive across the country, including in Washington — the last place New York’s elected officials should be looking for governing tips. Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute, has written a new book in which he demonstrates that federal tax policies are heavily influenced by political donations from affected industries, instead of sound fiscal principles.
But, in New York, there is a real possibility for meaningful reform in the near future. The independent Moreland Commission hearings have shown that there is real momentum for change. The business community should support reform proposals that come out of these hearings, and demand elections that are transparent, fair and competitive.
A 2012 poll of New York business leaders shows that they are behind this idea — 72 percent of respondents said they support creating a public matching system for state elections. New York’s business leaders, like all New York voters, want a system in which candidates are accountable to their constituents, and where individuals and businesses are treated equally, regardless of how close they are to a politician’s ear.
The best solution is statewide campaign finance reform that includes a system of matching small contributions with public funds, like the system that has served the people and businesses of New York City for more than 20 years. Since adoption of New York City’s small donor matching system for elections and other comprehensive campaign finance reforms, the city and its small- and medium-sized businesses have truly flourished. Good government reforms should be adopted in Albany, to benefit every voter and every business.
Cynthia DiBartolo is founder and CEO of Tigress Financial Partners and chairwoman of theGreater New York Chamber of Commerce.