For Immediate Release: March 15, 2019
FAIR ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES ELECTED OFFICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY EFFORT
88 Assembly Members & 40 Senators on the Record in Support of Public Financing of Elections
Digital, Grassroots Campaign Encourages Assembly Members and Senators to Confirm Support for Public Financing in the Budget
Albany – Today the Fair Elections Campaign launched an effort to ensure the stated support for fair elections in the Assembly and Senate budget resolutions ends up in final budget language. With long-term past support of this issue in the Assembly (when the Republican Senate was consistently blamed for blocking reform) and significant support in the Senate, grassroots supporters are launching an aggressive campaign to confirm Assembly Members and Senators on the record for including real legislation in the final budget.
Campaign supporters and members of the public were surprised and angered to hear Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie claim last Friday that the Democrat-controlled New York State Assembly did not have the votes to pass a small donor match, despite inclusion in the Assembly one house budget resolution.
“There are nearly 90 Assembly Members on the record in support of small donor matching. If they don’t deliver comprehensive legislation in the budget, that means a fair number of Assembly Members were elected with these reform credentials, but are backing off now at the height of demand for change,” said Dave Palmer, Fair Elections for New York campaign manager. “Elected officials are entitled to change their minds from time to time when new information becomes available, but Albany’s money in politics problem has only gotten worse, and the solutions they’ve always supported remain the same.”
The campaign includes aggressive digital advertising (examples here and here), grassroots pressure on social media, visits to dozens of elected officials offices, and over a thousand calls from constituents to elected leaders. The groups also pledged to be in Albany every day over the next two weeks, with a large “Big Money out of politics/money into communities” rally on March 25, to remind Assembly Members and Senators what’s at stake.
Because most discussions of legislative topics occur in private conversations, the public can only reasonably rely on what the Assembly Members themselves have made public to date: :
- Through public statements, past votes, past sponsorship and candidate questionnaires, the public has been led to believe that at least 88 current sitting Members of the Assembly are in support of Fair Elections small donor matching legislation (76 is a majority);
- The Assembly has passed Fair Elections legislation many times in the past; and,
- Speaker Carl Heastie was the main sponsor of the Fair Elections Act in 2016.
“The Speaker’s claims don’t gel with what the public has been told. The public now has a right to know if the votes are in fact there or who has changed their mind,” said Rosemary Rivera, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “We are asking every New Yorker and every reporter and news outlet in this state to expose the truth. All we want to know from each member not already on the record this year: ‘Do you support public financing of elections in this year’s budget: Yes or No?’”
The Senate has 40 members on the record in support, a solid majority. While the Senate has not publicly expressed any concern about a support-shortage, the Campaign is also asking Senators to go on the record to ensure comprehensive fair elections legislation does not drop out of the final budget.
The campaign released a new webpage to enable the public to view – district by district – who is on the record in support this year, and who has made a past commitment but is not yet on the record this year.
The Governor placed a Fair Elections policy, with small donor matching, in his Executive Budget. The Senate expressed support for it in their one-house budget document. The Assembly also expressed support for public financing of elections in their budget priorities document, but questions of the full support of the conference linger.
“Unless they publicly disavow their past positions, we should assume that all 88 members who have previously pledged support for public financing still support it. If they’ve suddenly changed their minds now that the prospect of passage is real, they owe it to the public to explain that change,” said Michael A. Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. “It’s not only the right solution to fix Albany’s broken politics. The politics have aligned too. For years the Assembly and its members have strongly urged this reform. Governor Cuomo and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins have ample reason to stand strong with the Assembly and keep this in the budget, no matter what. As the Newsday editorial board recently wrote, ‘Now that they can make it happen, to stop short would be nothing short of hypocrisy.’”
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.