Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013

Community Leaders Support Proposal to Increase Influence of Voters, Reduce Power of Big Money in Buffalo Election Campaigns

Buffalo, NY – Supporters of campaign finance reform called for passage of a resolution being introduced in the Buffalo City Council in support of creating a publicly financed elections system similar to the one in New York City. At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, advocates urged reform both for Buffalo and for state elections.

Public financing of elections has been a topic of hot debate at the state level in 2013.  Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a reform bill at the end of the last legislative session in Albany in an effort to curb corruption at the state capitol. That legislation would implement public financing for all statewide and legislative races and includes other important campaign finance reforms. A bill to implement a small donor matching public financing system was passed by the State Assembly, and all of Erie County’s Democratic Assembly members supported the bill. The provision stalled in the State Senate.

Now, while the Governor’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, including Erie County D.A. Frank Sedita and SUNY Buffalo Law School Dean Makau Mutua, is continuing to take a close look at the legal bribery taking place every day at the Capital, Buffalo lawmakers are taking action into their own hands.

At the 2 p.m. public meeting of the Council Legislation Committee, Common Councilmember Joseph Golombek plans to introduce the legislation. Public financing of elections has proven to be a huge success in New York City, where it’s balanced the playing field for all candidates and increased both voter participation in elections and the time candidates spend with their constituents.

Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said, “A small donor matching fund system, like the one working successfully in New York City, empowers average voters, amplifying the impact of their contribution and allowing them to be heard above the roar of big money rolling into candidate coffers. Elections should be about people, not who controls the purse strings. Just as we support the adoption of a Fair Elections system for New York State elections, Common Cause/NY applauds the Buffalo City Council for taking steps to restore integrity to the City’s campaign finance system.

Ellen Kennedy of the Working Families Party said, “Our City of Buffalo can lead the way, doing what Senators at the State Capitol were unwilling to do last legislative session, put the people back in control of our democracy through a small donor matching funds system of campaign financing. We know a publicly financed elections system works, on the local and statewide level.  I urge our Common Council to take up this cause and move to create a stronger, more vibrant elections system as soon as possible.”

Jim Anderson, State Vice President of Citizen Action of New York, “The Buffalo City Council has the opportunity to be leaders, act for the people of Buffalo, and send an important message to Albany—the people of New York want an end to legal bribery through reforms that return elections to the voters. There is no mystery. We know public financing works. It’s time to put it in place in Buffalo and in State elections.”

Bill Nowak of the Communications Workers of America said, “Money is talking far too loudly and the needs of working and poor people are taking a back seat in our political process. Our legislators are spending far too much time dialing for dollars, which is at best a distraction from the people’s business, and at worst tips the scales for special interests against the public interest. If the resolution being introduced today is correct—that that incumbents out raised challengers by more than 20 to 1 in the last round of Council elections—change is clearly needed. We strongly urge the Buffalo Common Council to develop and adopt a system of public financing for elections in the City of Buffalo.

Erin Heaney, Executive Director of Clean Air Coalition of WNY, said, “Our city faces dozens of public health and environmental challenges. In order to fix them and make our city a more sustainable, just and healthier place to live, we need the voices of ordinary people to be heard by our elected officials. Publicly financed elections would help return our government to the hands of the people, not a small group of wealthy donors.”


# # #