Press Release

For Immediate Release: March 22, 2019
Contact: press@fairelectionsny.org

200+ Organization Campaign Urges New York to Take National Lead on Campaign Finance

Albany, NY – With editorial boards across the state calling for public financing of elections in the state budget, national groups that are spearheading democracy reform efforts across the country weighing in, and state political leaders making the issue a top item in the budget, the Fair Elections for New York campaign urged Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins to seize the opportunity to enact the most significant money in politics legislation post-Citizens United, giving everyday New Yorkers a louder voice in New York’s political system.  With national reform efforts stalled after the passage of HR 1 in the House of Representatives, New York is poised to pass the most significant legislation reducing the influence of money in politics.  Thousands of New Yorkers have made calls, sent emails and attended Town Hall meetings to highlight the importance of this issue.

“Now is the time to pass public financing in New York,” said Jessica Wisneski, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “The issue has been studied multiple times – every time with the same result. Everyone agrees that the best way to clean up our government and prove it is a new Albany is to shake up the status quo by passing a small donor matching fund rather just another study. Speaker Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Stewart Cousins, and Governor Cuomo have all done a great service to the people of New York by indicating that campaign finance reform will be in the budget. Now is the time to make history and pass Fair Elections legislation.”

“On the heels of the passage of historic anti-corruption legislation in the U.S House of Representatives, New York can become the first state to create a statewide public financing of elections program since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. Passing a Fair Elections program would put New York at the forefront of the broad, national movement to restore our democracy and create a government that works for all of us,” said Tiffany Muller, End Citizens United president.

“New York’s elected leaders have brought us closer than ever before to creating a campaign finance system that empowers everyday New Yorkers over corporate interests,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “A small-dollar public match incentivizes candidates to engage with immigrant and other marginalized populations, and allows diverse communities to have a greater say in who represents them. By keeping campaign finance reform with a small-dollar public match in the final budget, New York will once again be a national leader for fair elections.”

“If New York enacts this political reform, it would be a nationwide breakthrough, the first real response to Citizens United. Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie have a chance to take a historic step. Voters made it clear they want this kind of change, and this would deliver. It requires courage from elected officials. That willingness to greatly strengthen our democracy would become a highlight in the political careers of the governor, the majority leader, and the speaker. It would prove that once again, New York can do big things,” saidMichael Waldman, president, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

“As we enter the home stretch of budget negotiations, legislators have the opportunity to be heroes for immigrant New Yorkers and working-class people of color,” said Javier. H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Our communities have been shut out of our democracy for too long, and passing public financing in this year’s budget will be a huge stride forward to leveling the playing field.”

“We’ve long known that real universal health care will likely only be enacted once the political influence of the vested special interests and Big Money Donors is curtailed, and the power of everyday New Yorkers is increased and enhanced,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All.  “We’re excited and hopeful that our state is finally on the verge of improving our democracy by including Fair Elections provisions in this year’s state budget deal, so that we can move forward with many good ideas to guarantee comprehensive, quality, affordable, accessible, health care for all our state’s residents, and New York can continue our long tradition as a leader state on health care reform.”

“We in the AIDS community applaud members of the New York State legislature who are publicly supporting public financing of elections.  Ware tired of the status quo that allows industry line its pockets while dictating poor health outcomes for people who constantly experience health disparities.  It is time for fair elections in New York State,” said Charles King, Chief Executive Officer, Housing Works, Inc.

“Year after year, we watch key environmental  priorities die in Albany because the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from big polluters and land developers insulate decision makers from acting in the public interest,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Without Fair Elections, it is difficult to turn the tide against issues like water contamination or climate change when an unfair advantage is given to wealthy industries that block even the most basic environmental safeguards and policies.  The Governor and the legislature must establish publicly funded election campaigns in this year’s budget. No more excuses.”

“In less than two weeks New York could become a national progressive leader by cutting big money influence out of politics. We urge our partners in Albany to hold strong and stand up for the working New Yorkers who elected you. For too long, corporate interests and real estate have hijacked the political system with massive donations. The Working Families Party fought tirelessly to deliver a solid progressive majority in Albany last year—and now we have a real opportunity to give working New Yorkers the voice they deserve in government. Now is the time to act” said political director of Working Families Party Bill Lipton.

“As long as big money controls access to our political leaders, there can be no democracy in New York. Campaign finance reform is central to returning our government back to the people,” said Paul Diamond, Rockland United.

“The New York State Council of Churches believes our elected officials should spend more time listening to their constituents and less time worrying about how to attract big money from people out of their district and keep them happy. Our current campaign finance system is a terrible burden carried by lawmakers from both political parties in rural, suburban and urban districts in every part of New York. We need Albany to seize this moment to pass a 6-1 matching system in this budget. We call on lawmakers, who offer excuses for not supporting this legislation,  to lead. Leadership means publicly naming one’s concerns and improving the legislation—now. We need our leaders to act and not react to finally give us a just campaign finance system that helps everybody,” said The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director of New York State Council of Churches.

““New York has a chance to pass historic reform that will amplify the voices of everyday New Yorkers over wealthy campaign donors like billionaire hedge funders and real estate interests. Leaders of the Assembly, Senate, and Governor Cuomo should seize this incredible opportunity and set an example for the entire nation,” said Chris Tallent, MAYDAY America National Campaign Director.

Historically, the true business of Albany has been protecting incumbents. This culture is changing radically, and must be ended. Some incumbents have not had a competitive election in twenty years or longer, and some fear that a small donor matching fund program will make it easier for challengers, which it will. It might not be good for all incumbents, but it will be good for democracy. The bottom line is, Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie have a historic opportunity to finally protect New York’s tenants by ending Albany’s reliance on real estate cash. It’s time to get it done. ,” said Michael McKee, Treasurer, Tenants Political Action Committee.

As Governor Cuomo highlighted in his State of the State speech, one of New York State’s lasting legacies has been one of openness, inclusivity, and humanity. From the 1900’s on we welcomed immigrants and refugees from all over the world, who in turn gave us the benefit of the diverse and vibrant culture that has come to define our state. Make no mistake, Fair Elections, which will give working people, people of color and immigrants the opportunity to participate in our democracy, is a part of this legacy. I am awed by the power and commitment of our legislature to making this transformative change, and look forward to celebrating the passage of this historic reform,” said Rodney McKenzie, Vice President of Campaigns and Partnerships, Demos.

Our members, all volunteer advocates, work tirelessly to expand democracy and secure authentic representation in government for New York State’s diverse populations. Neither can be accomplished without ridding our elections of the corrupting power of Big Money. We urge Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie to seize this historic chance, make New York a leader, and elevate its name as an innovator in the fight for fairness and equality,” said Kate Linker, Board President of Greater NYC for Change. 

“Public financing of elections is the mother of all reforms – the big kahuna, top dog, and grand poobah all rolled into one,” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany.  “Nothing says more clearly and loudly Albany gets it, and is changing for the better.”

“When the NYS Legislature passes the small donor public matching funds reforms in this budget, they will be remembered for a truly historic achievement which will serve as a model the the entire country. Don’t let this opportunity pass. Failure is not an option,” said George Albro, Co-Chair, NYPAN.

“Campaign finance reform that includes public financing of a small-donor matching system is crucial to maintaining a vibrant democratic system. It is the allowance of donations from big money that has corrupted our system of government and is at the heart of many of our other problems. If we can have fair elections that result in leaders who work for the people many of our other problems will also begin to be solved,” said Maria Quackenbush, Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance

“For too long, New Yorkers have had to endure a seemingful unending series of corruption scandals.  Public financing is a critical component of a meaningful response.  Now is the time for Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Heastie must act,”said Blair Horner, NYPIRG Executive Director.

“If we’re going to make the Green New Deal a reality in New York, we’re going to need politicians that our accountable to everyday New Yorkers, not corporations and their lobbyists. We look forward to applauding Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, and Leader Stewart-Cousins when they pass small dollar public finance measures in Albany,” said Matthew Miles Goodrich, New York State Director, Sunrise Movement.

“Comprehensive campaign finance reform that includes small donor match the first step to building meaningful political power for immigrants, communities of color, and low income New Yorkers,” said Carlyn Cowen, Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer at CPC (the Chinese-American Planning Council). “Anyone who says they want to build our access to the electoral system but doesn’t push for public financing in this year’s budget is just using our communities as political talking points. We look forward to the Governor and Legislature taking meaningful action in this year’s budget.”

“Public Citizen was proud to have helped with the passage of H.R. 1 in the U.S. House. As it now moves through Congress, we and our more than 20,000 members and supporters in New York are excited that New York could put a key element of H.R. 1 – small donor matching funds public financing – into law in our state in the next week. Throughout the nation, now is a key moment for us all to speak up and act for our democracy. Let’s get it done here!” said  Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. 

“Indivisible knows that our progressive vision for New York will never be truly realized until we fix our broken electoral system. Make no mistake – small donor matching is a racial justice issue as much as an economic one, as it empowers communities of color to support candidates and run for office with crucial support that New York doesn’t currently provide. Indivisibles have spent months canvassing, rallying, driving calls, holding town halls, launching social media campaigns and visiting their legislators to make their voices heard. We all know that lobbyists and big donors have a stranglehold on Albany, and we finally have the opportunity to fix it. We’re calling on our legislators in Albany to listen to their constituents and pass small donor matching in this year’s budget: no excuses, and no more punting,” said Lauren Boc, State Policy Manager, Indivisible Project.

“New Yorkers volunteered their time and energy to elect a True Blue State Senate because we believe that NY can and should lead the nation in the expansion of small-d democracy. By reforming our campaign finance laws and creating a 6-to-1 publicly funded matching system to lessen the influence of big money in politics, we can transform Albany to truly represent the people of New York. Voters want a government that we can believe in, and we will enthusiastically support those legislators who carry out the values of fairness, transparency and equity,” said Mia Pearlman, True Blue NY. 

“Members of Indivisible Scardale campaigned all over Westchester and the Hudson Valley so that we would have a State legislature that would enact reforms that New York desperately needed. Now that we have a Democratic legislature, it should pass campaign finance reform with a small donor match so that our representatives will be responsive to the people who elected them, instead of big money donors,” said Indivisible Scarsdale.

“Defeating the Independent Democratic Conference would not have been possible had it not been for the political courage and moral leadership of our diverse Bronx grassroots movement. People are excited about the political process more than ever before and an important way of honoring this energy is making a bold commitment to take big money out of politics in Albany. Transforming campaign finance to empower everyday people to have more ownership of the political process, will send a strong message to the grassroots that our voices matter. We need to make sure that we go beyond a resolution showing support for campaign finance reform, to ensuring that Fair Elections is included in the final budget because our movement deserves nothing less,” said Bronx Progressives.

“Today we issue our own ‘message of necessity.’ Perhaps nothing is more necessary for New York than reducing the undue influence of large donors in our politics and on our policy,” said Dave Palmer, Campaign Manager for Fair Elections for New York.  “What an opportunity the Governor, Senate Majority Leader and Speaker have to fundamentally change an Albany long called broken, restore faith in government, shift power to every day New Yorkers, and inspire a nation. We applaud all three for being at the budget negotiating table on Fair Elections; we strongly encourage them to cross the finish line together. I’ll personally organize the heroes parade.”

BACKGROUND

Fair Elections legislation is one of the top issues being debated as the Legislature and Governor finalize the state budget due on April 1.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie have all authored small donor matching systems proposals in the past that were consistently blocked by Republicans in the Senate. The Governor has once again included a small donor matching proposal in this year’s executive budget, and with supportive majorities now in control of both the Assembly and Senate, the path is clear to get the job done.   

The Fair Elections for New York campaign includes over 200 community, labor, tenant, immigrant, racial justice, environment, faith, good government, and grassroots resistance organizations who are building momentum to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform, including small donor public financing, in this year’s budget.

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New Yorkers deserve a responsive, accountable government. Voter turnout in New York is among the lowest in the nation, due in part to antiquated procedures for registration and voting that discourage participation. And our campaign finance system favors the wealthy over everyday, working New Yorkers. To tackle the crises we face in housing, living wage jobs, criminal justice, affordable health care, transportation, climate, fair taxes, and more, we must transform a campaign finance system that advantages the interests of the few over those of the many.

 

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