For Immediate Release: October 22, 2019
Fair Elections Advocates and Elected Officials Rally For a Strong Public Financing Program at Commission Hearing
Over a Dozen Long Island Groups Submit Letter to Commission Urging Them to Create a Strong Public Financing Program and Leave Fusion Voting Alone
Commission Has 40 Days to Issue Binding Recommendations to Amplify Voices of Everyday New Yorkers and Lessen Influence of Big Money in NYS Politics
LONG ISLAND, NY — Fair Elections for New York campaign hosted a rally and press conference today outside a public hearing of the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission in Long Island. This comes on the heels of over a dozen local Long Island organizations submitting a letter to the Commission calling on them to stay focused on crafting a meaningful public campaign finance program for the state, rather than focus on fusion voting. The groups support a program that launches by 2022 for both primary and general elections, at least a 6-to-1 match on small donations, lower contribution limits for all candidates, and an independent enforcement unit.
With 40 days left until the Commission’s December 1st deadline, Fair Elections supporters have called for the Commission to commit to releasing an interim bill draft to give the public time to weigh in before the recommendations are final and avoid backroom dealmaking. The Commission’s recommendations are binding and will become law if the Legislature does not act before December 22nd, which is why Fair Elections supporters are also calling on the Legislature—the body elected by New Yorkers—to prepare to act if the Commission falls short.
The Commission was created in response to public outcry over big money in politics and following the grassroots activism of over 200 groups supporting Fair Elections for New York who made campaign finance reform a top budget issue. There has been no such outcry to tamper with fusion voting.
Assembly Member Phil Ramos (D-Suffolk County): “I stand united with the thousands of New Yorkers who want public financing in New York. Our elections have been hijacked by big money, nationwide, and especially in New York. We have to find a way to get big money out of the equation. It will be no surprise that major donors are overwhelmingly white and male. It is hard for the average citizen to compete in such a system. We need public financing now and we ask the Commission to do what’s right for New York and our democractic system. In addition, at a time when we have a President who is polarizing the country, when we have a Congress that is polarized, why on Earth would we prohibit political parties from working together on common interests. It’s exactly what our country needs. Yet prohibiting fusion would prohibit just that. The Commission should allow fusion to remain in New York.”
“New Yorkers from all corners of the state have called for an end to big money in politics. This Commission is running against the clock with just forty days to deliver its recommendations, and we have yet to see the ‘model for the nation’ program that was promised by our elected leaders. We are calling for a strong public campaign financing program that will restore trust by limiting the power of the big money interests and giving everyday New Yorkers a bigger say in Albany. We will not accept weak reforms or last-minute backroom deals, therefore we call on the Commission to put forward at least one draft bill for review before December 1 and truly work to craft meaningful change, and the Legislature should return to Albany in December if the Commission falls short,” Laura Friedenbach, deputy campaign manager for the Fair Elections for New York campaign.
Dave Palmer, campaign manager, Fair Elections for New York campaign: “As to Senate Republican’s late-stage complaints about legal issues and costs, both are completely irrelevant to this forum. The courts will determine whether legal issues exist, and the Legislature has already voted to fund this program. We suspect most Long Islanders are smart enough to know that the Republicans, in opposing the best solution there is to big money’s influence, are actually more interested in keeping the big checks coming than saving taxpayers money. The cost of this program is a drop in the New York State budget bucket, will actually be a cost-saver by reducing wasteful donor inspired policy, and the program could even be funded off-budget if the Commission or Legislature chose to do so.
“Under a small donor matching system in New York State, we can ensure that candidates and those representing our communities actually listen to the needs of their constituents – not just lobbyists and large donors. Public financing will open up our political system to women, people of color, and low income New Yorkers, making it easier for marginalized New Yorkers to run for office. New York has a chance to lead the nation in implementing a robust public financing program that will empower citizens, reduce the dangerous influence of money in politics, and ultimately level the playing field. I stand firmly with the Fair Elections for New York campaign, and urge the Commission to embrace a permanent, small donor matching-based public financing program for New York State,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx/Westchester).
“Public financing for our elections is such an important issue. For it to now be combined with proposals to end fusion voting is incredibly disappointing. This commission should not allow their work to be stained by taking up that issue, but should focus totally on public financing. I’m proud to be here today to give testimony on why this is such an important issue and I’ll continue to fight to ensure our democracy is strengthened, not weakened,” said Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley (D-Brooklyn).
“Outrage over big money politics and grassroots activism across this state including right here in Long Island is what led to the creation of this commission, and we’re here today to remind them that with just 40 days left to complete their work, the public is watching,” said Lisa Tyson, Long Island Progressive Coalition Director. “We’re counting on our elected leaders and the commission they appointed to deliver a strong public financing program by the end of the year, and not to get distracted by irrelevant issues like fusion voting.”
“As an immigrant Long Island, I’ve seen how, time and again, Albany leaders have listened attentively to the voices of wealthy donors, while ignoring the voices of my neighbors and me on critical issues like fully funding our public schools and ensuring equal access to health care and housing,” said Eliana Fernandez, lead organizer for Make the Road New York and Long Island resident. “I’ve also seen how their high-dollar donations have been used to fuel racist, anti-immigrant campaigns across Long Island that stoke fear and hate. It’s time for a change, and that means a strong public financing system that levels the playing field to make sure all of our voices are heard.”
“Without a strong public financing system in New York State that limits big money from the fossil fuel industry and gives everyday New Yorkers a bigger say in the political process, we know that the oil and gas interests will come out in force to try to undermine successful implementation of the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act,” said Bridget Foley, youth climate advocate. “Here in Long Island, climate change isn’t a matter of debate, it’s a reality that upturns peoples’ lives when superstorms hit. We must ensure that our community’s voices do in fact impact policy decisions in Albany and that fossil fuel money cannot threaten the vital and long work ahead of us in mitigating the climate crisis.”
“CWA 1108 wants New York State to implement a strong small donor public financing program because we want the voice of the workers to have the same influence as the wealthy and the corporations. Publicly financed elections will allow our elected representatives to focus more on policy and governing and less on campaign fundraising. The Public Financing Commission should not be tampering with the constitutionally protected right of fusion voting. The Public Financing Commission should focus their attention on public financing of elections,” said Mike Gendron, CWA Local 1108 Executive Vice President.
Following the Commission’s December 1st deadline for offering binding recommendations, the Commission’s enabling statute specifically gives the Legislature until December 22nd to “amend or abrogate” the Commission’s recommendations. Given this, the Fair Elections coalition has recommended that the Legislature — the body elected by New Yorkers — be ready for this moment by introducing legislation on campaign finance reform. This step would enable the swift action that may be necessary in December to either replace or amend the Commission’s recommendations – or to act if a lawsuit prevents the Commission from acting at all.
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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