For Immediate Release: March 4, 2019
As Legislators Finalize One-House Budgets, National Black Leaders Call on Albany to Show Their Commitment to “Fair Elections”
National Leaders Call Small Donor Matching System a “critical issue for Black people”
Albany, NY – Today, the leadership team of the Policy Table of the “Movement for Black Lives,” called on Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Governor Cuomo and the members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus to prove their long-standing commitment to reducing the power of big money in New York politics by passing “Fair Elections” legislation with a small-donor matching system in the New York State Budget. Hundreds of organizations around the country have endorsed a national policy platform, spearheaded by the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table in 2016, which includes a call for public financing of elections. The letter comes several days after hundreds of New Yorkers swarmed the Capitol and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced her support of the legislation.
In the letter, which can be viewed in its entirety here, the organizations noted that:
“New York’s Legislature, with now all-Black Legislative leadership, and increasing diversity, are good signs, but more can and should be done to ensure the highest quality representation for Black people.
“Elections funded primarily by wealthy, white donors mean that candidates as a whole are less likely to prioritize the needs of poor and working class Black people; and that Black candidates are less likely to run for elected office, raise less money when they do, and are less likely to win. . . .
“It is critical that New York State implement a system of public financing of elections to encourage candidates for public office to listen to constituents and help Black people — particularly those that are poor and working class — have their voices heard in the political process.”
In the coming days, both the Assembly and Senate are expected to release their one-house budgets which will include their budget priorities going into negotiations over the final budget. A “fair elections” proposal was included in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget released in January.
The diverse and growing Fair Elections for New York campaign includes over 200 community, labor, tenant, immigrant, racial justice, environment, faith, good government, and grassroots resistance organizations who are building momentum to pass comprehensive campaign finance reform, including small donor public financing, in this year’s budget.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie have all authored small donor matching systems proposals in the past that reflect the recommendations of the 2013 Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, yet they were consistently blocked by Republicans in the Senate. The Governor has once again included a small donor matching proposal in this year’s executive budget, and with supportive majorities in the Assembly and Senate the path is clear to get the job done.
New York currently has some of the worst campaign finance laws in the country, including the highest contribution limits of any state that limits what donors can give in state elections. Introducing a small donor matching system for candidates in state elections would bring New York from the back of the pack to a national leader, becoming the first state since Citizens United to counter the unlimited, secret money flowing into our elections by amplifying the power of small donations.
The program would work like the successful New York City system, introducing a $6-to-$1 public match on small dollar donations for candidates who agree to lower contribution limits and show widespread support by collecting small donations to qualify for the program. Participating candidates would be able to run competitive campaigns while fundraising from everyday New Yorkers, instead of seeking checks from big donors.
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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