For Immediate Release: December 17, 2018
Fair Elections for New York Campaign Applauds Momentum for Fair Elections as Governor Cuomo Lays out 2019 Agenda
Fair Elections Package Has Support Of Over 140 Groups Across the State, Would Reduce Influence of Big Money
Albany, NY — In response to Governor Cuomo’s speech today hosted by the Roosevelt Institute, the over 140-member Fair Elections for New York campaign applauded what they saw as increased momentum for “Fair Elections” legislation that includes a small donor matching program, the closing of campaign finance loopholes, and comprehensive voting rights reform. The groups are urging the Legislature and Governor to pass the package, which are similar to proposals supported by majorities in both legislative bodies and Governor Cuomo, early in the 2019 session.
Advocates pointed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s long history pushing to reduce the influence of big money in politics as yet another reason Governor Cuomo should take the opportunity to reform New York’s laws to encourage citizen donations. Roosevelt famously said that “government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.” Roosevelt’s granddaughter Anna Eleanor Roosevelt wrote an op-ed for the Albany Times-Union in 2014 titled, “The future is public financing of elections.”
“As FDR himself once said, ‘Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.’ Reforming our campaign finance system means implementing public financing of elections, as the Governor has pointed out many times in the past. The best system is a small donor matching system, as it amplifies the voices of ordinary New Yorkers, and in so doing reduces the risk that we’ll all be drowned out by huge corporations and the wealthy.” “A majority of the Legislature has long supported this common-sense reform. It’s time for our elected leaders to finally get it done and pass Fair Elections early in the year.”
— Jessica Wisneski, Deputy Director, Citizen Action of New York.
“Today Governor Cuomo laid out plans for 2019 that would strengthen New York’s democracy. With small-donor public financing for state races and robust voting reforms, the governor can make Albany responsive to the people. These changes would create the foundation necessary to pass reforms that have been neglected at New Yorkers’ peril: housing, health care, the environment, criminal justice, education, and more. As he has done in the past, Governor Cuomo called today for comprehensive campaign finance reform and voting reform. The new leadership in the legislature should champion these changes, not block them.”
–Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice
“Public financing is an essential element of voting rights. If we’re going to guarantee greater access in our democratic processes, we must reform the campaign finance system to eliminate the power and influence of big money. Accountability to constituents cannot be dependent on money, and we deserve a more fair, honest, and affordable system that will allow for more competitive elections and make space for more diverse candidates. It is time for New York to reclaim its role as a leader of open democracy and pass Fair Elections in 2019.”
— Divya Sundaram, Policy & Civic Engagement Coordinator for Community Voices Heard
“Since the last century, Democrats supported overhauling our campaign finance system and establishing a public matching system to finally end undue influence and corruption in Albany. Now that Democrats control all levers of power, words must become action, and promises finally fulfilled to New Yorkers who have been waiting decades for change.”
–John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany
“Now is the time to give New Yorkers what they have waited for, and what they deserve – a small donor public financing system. Only Fair Elections will ensure that each citizen has a voice. Only then will New York truly be a government of, by, and for all the people. Get big money out of politics and people back in with public campaign financing!”
–Joan Mandle, Executive Director of Democracy Matters
“The best, and only, way to ensure that Asian Americans, immigrants, and other communities of color have equitable access to our electoral system, and therefore our political system, is through comprehensive fair elections reforms. While removing big money from politics is important, we must actively create pathways for those that have been historically disenfranchised from political and economic participation, which is why public financing is critical. We call on the State to pass #FairElections this year.”
–Carlyn Cowen, Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the Chinese-American Planning Council
“We have a show democracy in America. To have real democracy, we need commonsense measures such as public funding of elections. Governor Cuomo has the opportunity to have New York State be a model for the rest of the country.”
–Mike Quackenbush of Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance
The recommended reforms are similar to proposals Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Heastie have supported over the years—consistently blocked by Republicans in the Senate—and reflect the recommendations of the 2013 Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. The proposed Fair Elections reform package includes:
- Small donor public financing. A small donor matching system for candidates in state elections, including District Attorneys, like the successful program in New York City. Includes $6-to-$1 public matching on small dollar donations, enforcement, and robust candidate support services to help anyone running for office comply with the law. Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie have all authored small donor matching systems proposals in the past.
- Limiting the influence of big money. Close the “LLC loophole,” which allows anyone to funnel unlimited money into our elections and conceal the donor’s identity. Also, reduce New York’s unusually high contribution limits to restrict how much money wealthy donors can give to candidates and committees, among other improvements.
- Making it easier, not harder, to vote. Including but not limited to automatic voter registration, early voting, same day registration, online voter registration, no excuse absentee voting, new party enrollment deadlines, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, full voting access for people with disabilities, and codify into law New York’s new policy to extend voting rights to all New Yorkers with past criminal convictions.
The diverse and growing Fair Elections for New York campaign includes over 140 community, labor, tenant, immigrant, racial justice, environment, faith, good government, and grassroots resistance organizations. Full list of supporters is here.
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.