For Immediate Release: September 18, 2019
At Albany Hearing, 200+ Fair Elections Groups Call on Public Campaign Financing Commission to Deliver Model for the Nation
Dozens of Local Elected Officials Call on Commission to Enact 6-1 Matching Donations, Lower Contribution Limits, and Independent Enforcement
Commission Has Less Than 75 Days to Issue Binding Recommendations— Fair Elections Campaign Demands Commission Leave Fusion Alone
ALBANY, NY — Supporters of the Fair Elections for New York campaign, including elected officials, held a rally and press conference today ahead of the Public Campaign Financing Commission’s public hearing in Albany. Last week, over a hundred people packed the Commission’s hearing in New York City and testifiers stayed long into the night to testify in support of a strong public financing program and leaving fusion voting alone.
Video of the event is available here.
Supporters again showed up in force in Albany to call on the commissioners to deliver a model-for-the-nation public financing program that Governor Cuomo promised to deliver, without focusing on irrelevant political distractions like fusion voting. At the press conference, representatives from Local Progress also highlighted a letter sent this week from 40 local elected officials across New York urging the Commission to create a strong public financing program.
Following a huge grassroots effort by the over 200 groups that make up the Fair Elections for New York campaign, campaign finance reform became a top budget issue earlier this year and Governor Cuomo, the Senate, and the Assembly formed the Commission to outline New York’s small donor matching program by December 1, 2019. Supporters recently announced a statewide campaign to ensure that the commission and elected officials feel pressure to enact a bold public financing of elections program that will make New York’s democracy work for everyone, not just the wealthy few. Campaign members said the program must include at least a 6-to-1 match on small donations for both primary and general elections, lower contribution limits (for participating and non-participating candidates), and an independent enforcement unit.
As the campaign’s online countdown clock shows, the commission has less than 75 days to issue final binding recommendations. With little time left for the commission to deliver on its core task of creating a robust public campaign financing program, Fair Elections for New York supporters urged the Commission to focus solely on public financing and lay fusion voting aside.
“This is a historic opportunity to address Albany’s Big Money problem. While everyone is busy watching the potential fusion voting sneak attack, we’re worried the other side of that coin is the Commission falling short on campaign finance reform while the press and public are looking the other way,” said Dave Palmer, campaign manager for the Fair Elections for New York campaign. “The Commission should leave fusion alone and work to create a strong small donor matched campaign finance system for state elections, so New Yorkers can finally have a government that represents them and not the wealthy few. No more half-measures or weak reforms. With less than seventy-five days to fulfill this important mandate, there is no time to waste.”
“We can no longer tolerate a campaign finance system that lets wealthy white men use their dollars to overpower the voices of everyday New Yorkers. This commission has the power to deliver a strong public financing program by the end of the year that builds power in the Black and Brown communities most impacted by mass incarceration, underfunded public schools and environmental racism. We’re going to hold this commission and our elected leaders accountable to create a small donor matching program for elections. We won’t allow them to sidetrack us with political games like interfering with fusion voting,” said Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York.
“Connecticut implemented a statewide system of public financing more than a decade ago and it’s proven to make all the difference in our experience as candidates and lawmakers,” said Connecticut State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Matt Lesser representing Connecticut’s 9th Senate District. “The combination of our Fusion voting system and a public campaign financing program that frees us to spend more time with constituents rather than big donors has greatly strengthened our democracy, and I highly encourage New York to finally get this done.”
“Big money is a problem in our democratic process. Last year, a poll found that 77 percent of those who responded felt that there was too much big money in our political system. And this is a bipartisan issue, 71 percent of those that responded were either Republican or leaning Republican. I ask that we create a small donor funded system. That levels the playing field and loosens the choke hold that big money has on our democracy,” said Alfredo Balarin, Albany Common Councilor for the 11th Ward.
“Like many unions who support this approach, UAW members statewide understand that workers are better off when our elected representatives are free from the influence of corporate donors and when union members are able to meaningfully contribute to our democracy,” said Beverley Brakeman UAW Region 9A Regional Director. “We have our headquarters in CT which has a fusion voting system like NY and a strong public financing system, and there is no conflict with having both. Any assertion to the contrary is a political red herring. We encourage the Commission to follow the lead of experts and the large and diverse coalition of organizations in New York that have advocated for years to enact a strong system for all state-level elections in New York and leave fusion voting as is.”
“Lobbyists and special interest wouldn’t continue to give big campaign checks to state elected officials if they didn’t think their dollars would influence the legislative process. Dozens of local elected officials are calling on the Commission to create a statewide system that enables candidates to run viable campaigns on small donations, instead of relying on big checks, because it would benefit the whole state including each of our localities. It’s time for this commission to seize the opportunity to restore New Yorkers’ faith in the political process and create fair elections in New York,” said Chad Radock, New York State Coordinator at Local Progress.
“Big monied interests, like the fossil fuel industry, have stalled critical environmental initiatives for far too long. The industry plays an enormous role in the fight over restricting plastic and other single-use items. In addition, the soda and beer industries have fought tooth-and-nail to kill even the most popular measures—like beverage deposit laws. New York can’t allow dirty money to stall the leadership urgently needed to halt plastic pollution—campaign finance reform is the solution,” said Liz Moran, environmental policy director for NYPIRG.
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 came together to ensure comprehensive campaign finance reform, including small donor public financing, was included in this year’s state budget. The campaign plans to hold leaders accountable to their commitment in the budget to deliver Fair Elections reforms this year. Learn more at FairElectionsNY.org.
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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