Business Leaders Support NY Fair Elections

October 26, 2012

New York State’s business leaders have weighed in: they are deeply concerned about the role of big money in the state’s politics and would support comprehensive reforms.   

The Committee for Economic Development (CED), together with the Brennan Center for Justice, today announced the results of a new Zogby Analytics poll of 300 New York State business leaders. Poll results show that New York business leaders broadly support major changes in how state campaigns are financed:

  • 70% of respondents support major changes in the way election campaigns are financed. 88% overall support making changes of some kind.
  • 62% of respondents believe corporate donations are a bad thing for the political process.
  • 69% of respondents believe that elected officials in New York are more concerned with the needs of those who finance their campaigns than average New Yorkers. 
  • 61% of respondents believe that the level of corporate influence on election outcomes is bad for the political process.

    Over the past two years, the Brennan Center, CED and others have been working to organize a committee of business and civic leaders in New York State to encourage Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders in Albany to adopt a comprehensive campaign finance reform package, New York Leadership for Accountable Government (“NY LEAD”). “I work with businesses of all sizes on Long Island, and these poll results do not surprise me,” said David L. Calone, CEO of Jove Equity Partners and NY LEAD member. “Our leaders in Albany should be assured that if they take up campaign finance reform in a meaningful way, businesses across the state will be there to support them.” NY LEAD now has 95 members, including David Rockefeller, Barry Diller, and Edgar Bronfman, Sr. 

    The poll results should bolster prospects for proposals being advanced by Governor Cuomo, the Brennan Center and other reform advocates in New York State to overhaul the state’s outdated campaign finance laws. In his 2012 State of the State address, the Governor pledged to introduce a campaign finance reform package that would include a small donor matching program. Such a system would provide strong incentives for candidates for state offices to reduce their reliance on big money contributors by matching small dollar contributions from constituents with public monies. “Business leaders in the state are ready to support thoughtful reforms to our campaign finance system,” said Jane Sherburne, BNY Mellon General Counsel and member of NY LEAD. “The new poll demonstrates that they will stand behind legislators who are willing to take serious steps towards making our elections more transparent, fair and competitive.”

    Indeed, the poll indicates a solid base of support among New York State business leaders for a small donor matching system modeled on the system that has been in place in New York City for more than twenty years. As a simple stand-alone reform proposal, about half of all respondents support creating a voluntary system of financing that matches small dollar contributions with public funds. Most interesting, though, is that when the matching system is described in terms that include other reforms that would be included in a comprehensive proposal, support among business leaders is overwhelming.  80% of respondents support creating a system of voluntary public campaign financing in New York that limits the size of political contributions candidates can accept, and over 80% of respondents support a system of campaign finance that encourages candidates to fund campaigns through small dollar donations.

    The Committee for Economic Development and the Brennan Center have long urged the creation of small donor matching programs as the most meaningful kind of campaign finance reform.  A comprehensive reform package would also include reduced contribution limits, reasonable qualifying criteria, increased transparency and effective, nonpartisan enforcement. The Brennan Center looks forward to working with its partners CED and NY LEAD to make thoughtful reform a reality in New York State. 

    “Special business interests make political donations for one purpose- to influence governments to do their bidding,” said Jonathan F. P. Rose, President of Jonathan Rose Companies and member of NY LEAD. “Without campaign finance reform, democracy is at risk.”