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Will New York Lead the Way in Campaign Finance Reform?

3/20/2014 · By Karin Kemp · Moyers & Company

New York state is on the verge of breaking new ground in the fight against the corrupting influence of money in politics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a package of campaign finance reforms, including the public financing of candidates, in January as part of his budget proposal, which is currently being considered in Albany. If approved, New York would become the first state to pass an ambitious package of reforms since the controversial Citizens United decision in 2010, which has dramatically increased political spending.

Two people working to make New York state a national model for the public financing of political campaigns are Dan Cantor, executive director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. In this video clip, they speak with Bill about the urgency of public financing, how the system (already in place in New York City) would work and why it would open up the playing field to more candidates — including librarians and teachers!

Cuomo’s proposals were included in the state’s 2014-15 budget, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this month. If approved, the legislature will be carrying out the will of the people, as over three quarters of likely voters believe reforming New York’s campaign finance laws is key to cleaning up Albany.

Dan Cantor told Bill that in New York the pair are tackling what he calls political inequality, which results in fewer people being able to run for office.

…If you deal with political inequality, we have a system that should be one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote, you’ll affect other things besides the elections themselves. We have a non-virtuous system right now in which wealth gets power, uses the power to increase its wealth. You know, Justice Brandeis’ famous comment about how you can have great concentrations of wealth or you can have a democracy, but you can’t have both. So we’re at a moment in this society it seems to us which we have to make a decision. And we need to create a system that voters themselves will have more confidence in.

Jonathan Soros explained about how the public financing model works in New York City.

Here we have a system in the city if you’re running for citywide office or for city council, any contribution up to — you qualify to get into the system, you elect to be in the system — it’s voluntary. Then any contribution up to $175 is matched six to one by the public, out of a pool from the general fund from the budget. And that has had a dramatic transformative effect in the way that funds are raised.

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