For Immediate Release: March 27, 2019
FAIR ELECTIONS TO CUOMO “KEEP YOUR ‘LINE IN THE SAND’ PROMISE”
$25,000-A-PLATE FUNDRAISER WITH BUDGET DIRECTOR RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT CUOMO’S COMMITMENT TO CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM WITH A SMALL DONOR MATCH
WITH SENATE COMMITTING TO WORK ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM, 200+ ORGANIZATION CAMPAIGN URGES CUOMO TO USE HIS EXTRAORDINARY BUDGET POWERS TO GET IT DONE IN THE BUDGET
Albany, NY – The Fair Elections for New York campaign today called on Governor Cuomo to demonstrate his commitment to public financing of elections — called by the New York Times editorial board “the best way to clean up New York’s state capital” — by using his extraordinary budget powers to pass a small donor matching program in the state budget. On the same day that Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins committed to keep “working on campaign finance reform,” news broke of a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser as the state budget season was heating up, attended by New Yorkers with interests before state government and top government aides, including the Governor’s budget director.
The New York Times noted: “The fund-raiser provided a vivid example of how things work in Albany’s pay-to-play culture, where political contributions are often viewed by business leaders as a prerequisite for getting their perspective heard in the capital.”
“The Governor has been forceful in his public support for public financing of elections, putting it in his Executive Budget and calling it a ‘line in the sand,’” said Dave Palmer, Campaign Manager for Fair Elections for New York campaign. “But his fundraising practices raise concerns about how hard he’ll push for real reform. How he handles Fair Elections in this budget this week will provide an answer. Is it a ‘New Day’ in Albany or just Groundhog Day?”
The budget will be decided by April 1, by Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. They have the power to decide whether comprehensive campaign finance reform with small donor matching funds becomes law or not.
All three leaders would have to agree for the Governor’s Fair Elections proposal to come out of the budget, and that fact should not be lost on New Yorkers. Yet one person, Governor Cuomo, perhaps the most forceful voice in support of Fair Elections to date (but also known for his overreliance on big donors) has unique and extraordinary budget powers.
“He has the power to get this done alone, plus he has a partner in the Senate. We’ve been here before and the result has been a failure to act,” added Palmer. “There has never been a better opportunity to finally achieve real change in Albany. The final budget must include binding language to create a public matching system. Anything less is unacceptable. As the Newsday editorial board observed, ‘Now that they can make it happen, to stop short would be nothing short of hypocrisy.’”
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.
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.