Press Release

For Immediate Release: November 19, 2019
Contact: press@fairelectionsny.org

Unions, Civil Rights Organizations, Government Reform Experts, Advocates, and Community Groups to Cuomo and Legislative Leaders: Current Public Financing Commission Proposals Are Weak; Make Necessary Improvements

Successful System Must Encourage Small Donor Fundraising; Reduce Reliance on Big Money; Be Independently Enforced and In Effect by 2022

Commission Statute Gives Legislature 22-day Window Following Deadline to Amend or Modify Commission Recommendations

ALBANY, NY — With a week before the Public Campaign Financing Commission is set to release its binding recommendations, a group of leading unions, civil rights and community organizations, and advocates sent a letter today to Governor Cuomo and State leaders criticizing the Commission’s current proposals, the Governor’s and leaders’ silence, and urging them all to make sure the Commission delivers the ‘model for the nation’ proposal for New Yorkers.  Such a proposal would fix issues with the Commission’s existing proposal, including sky high contribution limits, a too-late start date, and problematic enforcement. The letter suggests a broad array of groups may oppose the final recommendations and demand fixes next session leading into the state legislative primaries. 

Full text of the letter below and online here

Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie:

The Public Campaign Financing Commission is poised to create a campaign finance system that does little to address the undue influence of big money or empower everyday people. Thankfully, there is still time to get it right. Our organizations cannot support the Commission’s recommendations without the following critically important changes to what is currently on the table:

  1. ADDRESSING BIG MONEY: The Commission must halve the contribution limits currently under consideration, only match small contributions, and add “doing business” and campaign “war chest” restrictions. 
  2. START DATE: The program can and must begin in 2022. (Experts note that this is absolutely achievable. Many programs have started in this timeframe, and there are ways to deal with mid-cycle implementation.)
  3. ENFORCEMENT: If enforcement is within the State Board of Elections (which we’ve recommended against), the board must be composed of an odd number of members, include at least one additional independent member, and make changes to ensure enforcement is efficient and fair.

We urge you to focus on the above points and leave the irrelevant and distracting discussion of fusion voting and minor party qualifications to the Legislature.

Recent polling shows that 75 percent of New Yorkers support public financing of elections. The Commission was formed in response to public outcry on this issue, and Governor Cuomo promised a program that would be a national model — “the best in the United States.” The Commission has been given strong, proven policy proposals that would meet that standard, and yet the Gubernatorial and Assembly appointees, as well as the jointly appointed Commissioner, have, to date, rejected these strong policies in favor of policies that allow too much big money influence, which also lessens the incentive for small donor fundraising. Each of you has remained silent as this is happening. We’re urging action now, and we intend to continue calling for action if this Commission falls short.

New York desperately needs meaningful reform that will loosen the stranglehold that wealthy interests have over the policies New Yorkers need most, from housing and health care, to the environment and education. It is time to deliver what has been promised. The next Commission working meeting provides the opportunity to do that by passing the above recommendations. Let’s create the “model for the nation” we can all celebrate. 

Signed,

George Albro, New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN)

Ivanya Alpert, Rockland United

Afua Atta-Mensah, Community Voices Heard (CVH)

Michael Beltzer, Bronx Progressives

Laura Bierman, New York State League of Women Voters

Beverly Brakeman, United Auto Workers, Region 9A

Katie Chao, Progressive Schenectady

Citizens Union of the City of New York

Josh Daniel, Indivisible Harlem

Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter

End Citizens United Action Fund

Ava Farkas, Met Council on Housing

Adam Flint, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition 

Jenny Geer, Indivisible BlueBlast!

Jasmine Gripper, Alliance for Quality Education

Mark Hannay, Metro New York Health Care for All

Tara Herman, NYCD16-Indivisible

Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG)

John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany

Kate Linker, Greater NYC for Change

Joan Mandle, Democracy Matters

Ravi Gupta & Chris Marte, The Arena

Susan Martin, True Blue NY Grassroots Coalition

Bob Master, Communication Workers of America (CWA), District 1

Michael McKee, Tenants PAC

Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Demos

Gianni Ortiz, Indivisible CD19 NY

Amy Pondolfino, Butternut Valley Indivisible

Deborah Porder & Myra Saul, Indivisible Scarsdale

Shannon Powell, Indivisible Westchester 

Katie Robbins, Campaign for New York Health

Melissa Rose, Indivisible White Plains

Lin Sakai, Indivisible Ulster

Gail Sasso, CCoHOPE Indivisible

Jeremy Saunders, VOCAL-NY

Arthur Schwartz, Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan

Maribeth Sheedy, The Akron Mobile Home Tenants Association

Ricky Silver, Empire State Indivisible

Kim Snyder, Indivisible New Rochelle

Stand Up America

Lisa Tyson, Long Island Progressive Coalition

Javier Valdés, Make the Road New York

Diane Torstrup & Susan Van Dolsen, Westchester for Change

Cea Weaver, Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance

Ting Barrow & Julie Wegener, Uptown Progressive Action

Robert Weissman, Public Citizen 

Jonathan Westin, New York Communities for Change (NYCC)

  1. Joy Williams, Brooklyn NAACP; New York State NAACP

Rosemary Rivera & Jessica Wisneski, Citizen Action of New York

In alphabetical order by last name

Cc: Members of the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission; 

Members of the New York State Legislature

Background

Following the Commission’s December 1st deadline for offering binding recommendations, the Commission’s enabling statute specifically gives the Legislature a 22-day window 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 — is 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.

News reports suggest the commission may attempt to address New York’s fusion voting system or minor party qualification thresholds, irrelevant issues to the commission’s core mandate to create a public financing program. The Public Campaign Financing Commission was formed in response to a major outcry to get big money out of New York State politics. There has been no such outcry to tamper with minor parties. With little time left for the commission to deliver on its core task of creating a public campaign financing program, Fair Elections for New York supporters urge the commission not to get sidetracked by irrelevant political distractions.

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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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