Release: Assembly Passes 2013 Fair Elections ActView Update
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Citizens Union campaign-finance ruling on Monday could lead to a bolstering of laws here in New York, hopeful advocates say.
Conversely, the decision, which essentially struck down Montana’s strict campaign-finance laws of barring corporate and union campaign contributions — is unlikely to have the impact of deregulating New York’s campaign-finance laws, said NYPIRG’s Russ Haven, the group’s legislative director.
Haven said the to-do list for advocates — a taxpayer-funded system, stronger enforcement and better disclosure — should not be impacted by Citizens United.
“None of those things would be affected by what the Supreme Court did,” he said.
But the effort could have a broader impact of galvanizing advocates to push state lawmakers to seek an overhaul of the laws.
“The Supreme Court is in fact extending the Citizens United decision to state level efforts and campaigns,” he said. ”I think the public and certain advocates believe the Supreme Court has undermined any help from the courts it’s up to the courts and so it’s up to state Legislatures to address the problems.”
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was not so sanguine.
In statement, Schneiderman blasted the decision as a way of infringing on a state’s ability to draft its own laws.
“The decision gives short shrift to States’ vital interests in protecting their democratic processes and institutions from the threats posed by unlimited corporate spending in campaigns,” Schneiderman said. “It also ignores the national experience since the Court decided Citizens United v. FEC two years ago, which has allowed corporations and billionaires to flood millions of dollars to candidates through Super PACs whose independence is a legal fiction. The application of Citizens United to state and local elections will be disastrous for the integrity of our democracy.”
Despite a post-budget push from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a measure that would institute a publicly financing system for campaigns went nowhere. In opposing the measure, Senate Republicans said the proposal was an unfair and unwise use of taxpayer money for political activity.
It was a philosophical gap that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, already contending with a Legislature divided on teacher evaluation disclosure and a minimum wage hike, didn’t think he could resolve this year.
But now Cuomo and a coalition of the wealthy, along with former Cuomo aide Steve Cohen, are making a renewed effort to overhaul the laws, similar to the same-sex marriage push of 2011.
A lot of it, as Cohen told Liz on the show last night, depends on the political landscape of 2013 — i.e. who controls the Senate and whether the political and public pressure is there to get anything done.