For Immediate Release: October 14, 2019
Fair Elections Campaign to Public Financing Commission: Release Interim Draft Bill
Groups Call on the Commission to Deliver “Model for the Nation” Program and Lessen Influence of Big Money in NYS Politics
Commission Has Less Than 50 Days to Issue Binding Recommendations; Groups Support Permanent Program with at Least 6-1 Matching Donations for Primary and General Elections, Independent Enforcement, and Lower Contribution Limits
VALHALLA, NY — The Fair Elections for New York campaign hosted a press conference outside meeting of the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission in Westchester today to call on them to release a draft recommended bill ahead of their December 1st deadline. This comes on the heels of a letter sent by New York State’s leading good government organizations calling for the Commission to issue an interim report by early November as well as the over 200 groups supporting the Fair Elections for New York campaign sending their own letter with the same demand.
The coalition of groups that made campaign finance reform a top budget issue through a huge grassroots effort want to ensure the Commission is working to create meaningful campaign finance reform which includes at least a 6-to-1 match on small donations for both primary and general elections, lower contribution limits for all candidates, and an independent enforcement unit —without focusing on irrelevant political distractions like attempting to eliminate fusion voting.
“Following public outcry across the state over big money in politics, the Governor said this commission would deliver a ‘model for the nation’ public financing program, yet its work has been overshadowed by irrelevant political attacks on fusion voting. To maintain the public’s trust and avoid the possibility of political backroom deals, the Commission must release a draft of its proposals. All across the state, we teach our students, from 1st grade to legal interns, to never hand in a first draft as the final product. A normal bill goes through committees and has several readings. This Commission, empowered to make actual law, must put forward at least one draft bill for review before December 1. Today is an opportunity to ask the Commission if they’ll do so,” said Dave Palmer, campaign manager for the Fair Elections for New York campaign. “New York has a historic opportunity to address Albany’s big money problem and lead the nation in restoring trust in our political system. We are here to hold the Commission and our elected leaders accountable, and we will not accept half-measures or weak reforms.”
“Today the Commission will discuss how to structure the public matching system they are charged with creating. They must also issue a draft bill by the beginning of November so all stakeholders can review it,” said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany. “This way, we can ensure the proposed system is strong, meaning it: 1) lowers contribution limits dramatically for ALL candidates; 2) creates a campaign finance agency independent from the board of elections; and 3) matches small donations by all New Yorkers, within and outside a lawmakers’ districts. These are key elements indicative of whether the Commission is serious or not about creating a model public financing system.”
“There are a lot of people, including right here in Westchester, counting on this commission to create fair elections in New York, ” said Myra Saul of Westchester for Change and Indivisible Scarsdale. “That means creating a strong public financing program and leaving irrelevant issues like fusion voting alone. To gain public trust and avoid the possibility of last-minute backroom deals, this commission must release a draft of their proposal. If the Commission doesn’t do the right thing, the Assembly and the Senate must do what is required, step in and adopt its own strong campaign finance reform legislation. To our elected representatives, our message to you today is that we are watching what you say and do.”
“This is one of the most important issues that we could address, because everything is at stake. We are the closest we have ever been to getting fair elections. We must make sure we keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted by fusion voting. We have to continue to do everything we can to give a voice to the voiceless and make sure everyone has a vote. But when there are $17,000 contributions that can be given, voices are drowned out. I salute everyone who is making sure this Commission follows through and not just do window dressing,” said State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester).
“New York voters will not trust this campaign finance reform process if it continues along a path lacking in transparency and openness, with an inappropriate focus on fusion voting,” said State Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains). “I urge the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission to issue an interim report as soon as possible, so New Yorkers who want to lessen the influence of big money in elections can be heard well before the final recommendation deadline of December 1.”
“In order to amplify the voices of everyday New Yorkers such as myself, and to ensure that communities of color are not shut out of the democratic process, we need to ensure that elected officials’ interests are not for sale. We cannot possibly win the crucial, life-saving legislation that we need in Westchester and across New York State without Fair Elections.” Kim Francis, VOCAL-Westchester Community Leader.
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 — 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.
News reports suggest the commission may attempt to modify or ban New York’s fusion voting system, an issue irrelevant 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 fusion voting. 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.
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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