For Immediate Release: January 7, 2019
National Organizations Call on Cuomo to Lead the Nation on Fair Elections
New York poised to “show how it can be done”
Albany, NY — Dozens of national organizations, including African American Ministers in Action, the Brennan Center for Justice, Clean Water Action, Color of Change, Greenpeace, Indivisible, Our Revolution, MoveOn, NAACP, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, SEIU, Sierra Club, and Stand Up America released a letter to Governor Cuomo today urging him to turn New York into a campaign finance leader by passing the Fair Elections package early in the legislative session. The groups are part of a national effort to pass a bill with public financing and other democracy reforms as the first bill in the 116th Congress. The groups stressed that passage of a law in New York would provide additional momentum to the national effort and help spark other local reforms around the country.
Governor Cuomo has called for campaign finance reform, with a small donor match, every year he has been in office, recently urging the Legislature to join him in making it a priority this year. The groups suggested the opportunity for success was greater this year as he has two partners in Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie who have sponsored small donor matching system bills in the past.
The letter noted that “With Democrats taking over the U.S. House of Representatives, the nation is heading down the track that New York is already on. The destination is a new era of democracy reforms such as small donor public financing, automatic voter registration and early voting. New York, under your leadership, can get there first, and in so doing provide a boost to the broader national effort.”
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 175 community, labor, tenant, immigrant, racial justice, environment, faith, good government, and grassroots resistance organizations. Full list of supporters is here.
Full Text of Letter
Dear Governor Cuomo:
New York has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the nation — quite literally — on campaign finance reform, with a small donor matching system. We write to request your help.
As you know, Speaker Pelosi and key leaders in Congress are spearheading an effort to make democracy reforms the first bill in the 116th Congress. In a November 25 oped in the Washington Post, entitled, The Democratic Majority Will Restore Democracy, Pelosi and Representative Sarbanes wrote:
Americans went to the polls and sent a powerful message: The election not only was a resounding verdict against Republicans’ assault on Americans’ health care and wages, but also it was a vote to rescue our broken democracy.
First among the democracy-rescuing reforms they described was campaign finance reform:
We must also empower hard-working Americans in our democracy by building a 21st-century campaign-finance system – combining small-donor incentives and matching support – to increase and multiply the power of small donors. Wealthy special interests shouldn’t be able to buy more influence than the workers, consumers and families who should be our priority in Washington.
We know you are aware of voter hunger for reform, and we know you believe in amplifying the power of small donors to limit the power of big money in our politics. You’ve called for it every year you’ve been in office.
With Democrats taking over the U.S. House of Representatives, the nation is heading down the track that New York is already on. The destination is a new era of democracy reforms such as small donor public financing, automatic voter registration and early voting. New York, under your leadership, can get there first, and in so doing provide a boost to the broader national effort.
That is precisely why we write. Show the nation how it can be done. Inspire Congress and give something to candidates to point to in 2020. We’ll work hard to pass a federal bill in the U.S. House this month. We then hope to look to New York as a model for the nation.
Luckily, you are not alone. You have two legislative leaders who have sponsored small donor matching system bills. You also have us, and many others hoping to see this happen. Please let us know how we can help you help the rest of the country.
African American Ministers in Action
American Family Voices
Arab American Institute
Ben & Jerry’s
Brennan Center for Justice
Campaign for America’s Future
Center for Popular Democracy
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Clean Water Action
Color of Change
Concerned Citizens For Change
End Citizens United – Fight for Reform
Food & Water Watch
Franciscan Action Network
Free Speech For People
Friends of the Earth
Main Street Alliance
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Council of Jewish Women
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
New Progressive Alliance
People Demanding Action
People For the American Way
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Progressive Turnout Project
Stand Up America
Transformative Justice Coalition
Unitarian Universalist Association
Voter Rights Action
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.