For Immediate Release: March 30, 2019
New Yorkers to Albany: Finish the Job!
Fair Elections Campaign Gathers Outside Governor Cuomo’s Office to Call on Leaders to Pass Public Financing of Elections
Small Donor Matching: “real test of the ‘new’ Albany’s commitment to meaningful campaign finance reform.”
New York City– Today, nearly 100 community members with the Fair Elections NY campaign rallied outside Governor Cuomo’s office to tell the Governor, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and all New York State elected officials that true campaign finance reform with a small dollar matching system must be passed in this year’s budget. The proposal was included in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget but still needs to be kept in the budget by the Governor and legislative leaders, and adopted by the full Legislature.
“The system is broken in Albany, and 80% of New Yorkers agree with us that our fair elections package is the way to fix it. We don’t want to hear any more excuses—Governor Cuomo and both chambers of the legislature need to walk the walk and make sure that a robust public financing system is in the budget,” said Julissa Bisono, Lead Organizer, Make the Road New York.
“Think about our democracy. Think about our state politics. Think about taking real estate money out of politics. Their interests out of politics. What would our state legislature look like? What would the opportunities be for people like you and me who care about our city, who care about our people, who say that look your $50, your $10, your $2 makes a difference because with a matching system you’ll make the difference. I’m going back up to Albany to say we are going to fight. We’ve been fighting weeks. We’ve been fighting for months. We’re at the final say, so let’s try and push the Governor, the Assembly, the Senate to get it in the budget, so we can do it now, so we can roll it out in the next few years. so we have a better democracy for all of us,” saidAssembly Member Harvey Epstein, representing District 74.
“I would never have been able to wage a successful campaign for New York City Council without access to our City’s public matching funds program” said New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “A matching funds program is the only way to keep big moneyed special interest groups from capturing our elections entirely. In my election, it allowed people from humble backgrounds to power my campaign, ensuring that I was accountable to average folks in my neighborhood, rather than those with the deepest pockets. This program has been utilized to great effect in NYC and there is no reason that candidates for state office should not have access to the same level playing field in their elections.”
“The Governor has forcefully reiterated his support for including small donor public financing in the budget. He said it himself: with everyone saying they support it, there’s no reason not to get it done. This is the true test for leaders in Albany. Will they seize the opportunity to follow through on their commitment to voters, or will they accept the big-money status quo? The grassroots activists and countless New Yorkers who have joined this campaign are counting on them to include binding language to create a public matching system. Anything less is unacceptable,” said Laura Friedenbach, Deputy Campaign Manager of Fair Elections for New York.
“There is no greater risk to our representative Democracy than the outsized influence of big-money donors and influential lobbyists that tip the scales towards the wealthiest in our state. This threat was on full display throughout the course of the budget negotiations and constituents from across the state are fed up. There are no more excuses. New York’s Democratic Leadership must enact a binding small donor matched public financing system in the budget or expose that the promise of a more equitable New York was nothing more than empty rhetoric,” said Ricky Silver of Empire State Indivisible.
“New Yorkers are fed up with politics as usual. The Center of Popular Democracy is working with organizations here and across the county to fight so that the middle and working class, and communities of color, have more say in who represents them in government. Public financing of elections is a huge part of that work, and the people are tired of excuses on why it can’t be done. We’ve seen the model on how it can be done, and we know what impact it can have on how money is spent on our electoral system. We want our electeds to not be thinking of who will keep them in power but think of how they can better serve all of their community,” said Brandon West, Campaign Manager at Center for Popular Democracy
“For decades Albany has been a national punch-line for jokes about corruption and influence peddling. That was yesterday. Today, literally today, the Democratic Party in New York State led by Governor Cuomo, Leader Stewart Cousins and Speaker Heastie can take a huge step towards fairer elections, a fairer democracy, a fairer society. New York can be that place where one person, no matter how humble, gets one vote. Publicly financed elections work for New York City and they will work for New York State,” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany
“It was grass roots energy motivated by a desire to drive big money from politics, to distribute more tax dollars to school children, to address the crisis in affordable housing, and to put an end to a racial and class biased criminal justice system, which defeated both the IDC and a dozen Republicans in the State Senate. If the Assembly cannot deliver, they will be ignoring the will of the voters and that is problematic,” said Arthur Schwartz Political Director at NYPAN
Video of the event can be found here.
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.