For Immediate Release: November 27, 2019
200+ Organizations in Fair Elections for NY Campaign Call on Governor Cuomo and Legislature to Return to Albany & Give New York the Campaign Finance Program It Deserves
Commission’s Weak Proposal Fails to Meet ‘Model for the Nation’ Standard and Confirms Concerns of Behind-the-Scenes Political Interests Influencing the Result
Commission Statute Gives Legislature Until December 22 to Amend or Modify Commission Recommendations
ALBANY, NY — On the day the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission said they would submit final binding recommendations for a public campaign finance program for New York State, the Fair Elections for New York campaign sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and Members of the NYS Legislature to immediately introduce and pass legislation to fix the proposal’s shortcomings before the law goes into effect in late December. The campaign wants an up-or-down public vote on “Fair Elections Fix” legislation before December 22 so the public can see once and for all where their legislators stand on campaign finance reform and minor party ballot access.
Without a public bill, the groups’ comments are based on the public votes at the most recent Commission meeting.
This Commission came about following the advocacy of the over 200 groups supporting Fair Elections for New York who made campaign finance reform a top budget issue. Supporters and experts have been clear from the start about what elements are needed to create a strong public financing program. The Commission ignored many of those recommendations, focusing instead on the political agendas of those who appointed them, demonstrated by the irrelevant political attack on minor parties. Now, supporters are calling the legislature to clean up their mess with a legislative fix.
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, rejected these strong policies in favor of policies that allow too much big money influence, which also lessens the incentive for small donor fundraising.
FULL TEXT OF LETTER:
November 27, 2019
Dear Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and Members of the NYS Legislature:
The Commission you created was formed in response to public outcry around the undue influence of big money in Albany. The Commission ended up approving a program that will not do enough to reduce big money’s dominance, and the Commission abused its power in an anti-democratic attack on New York’s minor parties.
Pursuant to the Commission’s enabling statute, we write to urge you to immediately introduce and pass “Fair Elections Fix” legislation that would do the following:
- Further limit big money. Lower individual contribution limits to $7,500 for statewide races (from $18,000), $5,000 for Senate (from $10,000) and $2,500 for Assembly (from $6,000), and limit further contributions to participating candidates (New York’s public financing system should have limits more like the national average.) Establish doing business contribution limits, and restrict candidates from carrying over funds from previous election cycles (“war chests”).
- Fix enforcement. Administration and enforcement of this program should be outside of the Board of Elections. The heads of the agency and its staff should be held to the highest standards of ethics and nonpartisanship.
- Launch the program in time for the 2022 elections. The attack on minor parties goes into effect immediately. There is no reason to wait for 4 years for the public financing program to go into effect for state legislative races, and 6 years for statewide races. Experts say there are proven ways to address mid-cycle implementation.
- Reject all changes to party ballot status. Reject the increased threshold for party qualifications, new presidential race requirements, and increased signature gathering requirements.
We also request that you obtain and release publicly all of the information and data the Commission used to make its decisions.
Legislative leadership should allow for the introduction of “same-as” legislation by those who champion meaningful reform. A floor vote should be scheduled before December 22. We urge all members of the Legislature to sponsor and vote for such a fix.
Following your inability to pass Fair Elections legislation in early 2019 (despite those addressed here and majorities in each house being on the record in support), and the very apparent behind-the-scenes engagement with this Commission that has resulted in these shortcomings, every legislator should vote in broad daylight to make her or his position clear to the public. It is time to return to Albany to fix the Commission’s proposals and finally deliver the model for the nation New Yorkers were promised.
Fair Elections for New York campaign
PS- While this campaign does not take official positions on issues beyond Fair Elections, some members have expressed concern about a special session being used to weaken or prolong the implementation of new pretrial laws. We’d be strongly opposed to that (especially so having just experienced a state process misused to address an unrelated issue).
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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